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In Memoriam: Alexis Tioseco September 4, 2009

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends, Ramblings.
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I’ve been having a hard time shaking off the news of Alexis “Eggy” Tioseco’s untimely passing. Mostly, it’s because of the tragedy of it all. To some degree, it’s also because I last saw him on tv and at his best with Butch Dalisay, trying to engage Carlo J. Caparas in intelligent conversation over the recent National Artist row. But at the end of the day, perhaps it’s really just because he was someone I knew with a lifetime ahead of him abruptly put to an end.

This is not to say that I knew Eggy well. Sure, I considered him a friend — by which I mean an acquaintance I wouldn’t hesitate to greet and who would, in turn, greet me back — but he was my junior. In fact, the only reason we were ever introduced back in the day was because I was his brother’s classmate. So whenever I think of Eggy, I think of meeting that gangly, quiet kid, always with a kind word and sort of good-natured twinkle in his eye.

Our University wasn’t a big place, thus even if we didn’t run in the same social circles it wasn’t at all unusual for our paths to cross. As stereotypes go, he would be with the artsy and popular crowd; I on the other hand would associate with…well, let’s just say mine wasn’t nearly as interesting. In the end, though, what we had in common was that ours were the most vocal groups in the University community, so if anything was ever up you could be sure we’d be there. Hence, we’d bump into each other every so often — to support the student theater groups or discuss some finer points of University politics — which is how I’d developed a healthy respect for what Eggy was all about.

Objectively speaking, one would have to admit that Eggy had all the wrong characteristics for a serious Filipino film critic. At first blush he came across as more Canadian than Filipino, overly soft-spoken, and too, well, nice to pass the sort of judgment one would expect from a critic. More, it seemed incomprehensible that someone with these traits could possibly be enamored with anything as ersatz or esoteric (take your pick) as Philippine cinema. Yet for all that was wrong with the idea of this Fil-Canadian establishing himself as a Filipino film critic, there were all those other things that were just so, so right. Talent. Passion. And above all else, unique perspectives on what was so beautiful about Philippine film, and innumerable ideas about its possibilities.

In this, his body of work speaks for itself.

I didn’t have a chance to bump into Eggy as much after graduation, but in a sense he kept on bumping into me. I can’t quite count the times I’d turn on the tv and be pleasantly surprised to find him on the air, a guest on some show or other effortlessly explaining some finer point about film. By then his star was already on the rise — a Dragon in Flight, to borrow a phrase — himself an example of what the best of us from our University can aspire to be. And part of his charm? He was the same good-natured, soft-spoken, talented and passionate guy that he’d always been.

A couple of years later our paths would cross at least one last time, when I found myself a faculty member at our alma mater. He was either in his final year of studies or was also a faculty member himself (I forget). Once more we’d occasionally run into each other on our way to class. Sure, this happened only a couple of times over a yearlong period or so, but I distinctly remember how, clad in a shirt with rolled up sleeves and a sharp looking tie, he’d make it a point to jokingly greet me with a half-bow and say, “Mr. Belen”.

That last time I caught him on tv, giving as well as he got, I thought to myself that I should drop him a line to tell him what a good job he’d done on the panel. Now he’s gone, and I regret not having been able to say as much.

I wrote the last post that appeared on this blog days before the tragedy that befell Eggy, and it’s only because of the magic of the interweb that it self-published as scheduled when it did. Really, those bullet reviews of stuff I watch while traveling got started as a gag that I decided to run with, and by now I’ve written quite a bunch of such fluff. In a strange way, seeing it come out when it did reminded me of all that we’ve lost with Eggy’s passing. We’ve lost an intelligent voice for film in general and Philippine cinema in particular — far too soon — and without him, much of what will be written about the medium may just seem like so much fluff, at least for some time to come.

A lot’s been written about Eggy in the past few days; the ones below are the most poignant as I’ve come across. Call this my own subtle tribute, one that I humbly offer with my own half-bow, “Mr. Tioseco”.

A Time To Love: Alexis Tioseco, Nika Bohinc, And The Global Film Community [Jason Sanders via FilmMaker]

Alexis Tioseco (1981-2009) [Francis Cruz via Lessons From the School of Inattention: Ogg’s Movie Thoughts]

Alexis A. Tioseco (1981-2009) [Noel Vera via Critic After Dark]

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