I first met Chris in my imagination. That may sound ridiculous but allow me to explain.
It all started about my twin sister’s stories about a tranchemate/officemate she had at work who lent us copies of foreign films. When I say foreign, I don’t mean easy to pick up at the videostore Hollywood movies (with the exception of some Hollywood films which are surprisingly available in local videostores). These were all interesting, well-thought foreign films my twin and I only knew from film books we secretly read at the bookstore. From the great Fellinni to Akira Kurosawa, whose works we only heard of by characters from other foreign films we’ve seen on cable. I always imagined him as this skinny guy with glasses (though my sister corrected me several times that he never wore glasses), with messy hair. It’s not usual that you’d meet a guy who was interested in the same stuff you did. So I asked her “gwapo ba?” (is he handsome?) And my sister replied “well, kind of. But I’m just not sure he’s interested in me in that aspect.” Since I, we, were both single at the time my hopes of nabbing someone who had the same interest, as in built-in interest in these kinds of movies, just died then and there. But I was still interested in meeting him in person.
Apparently he made the first move of talking to my twin during their training at work. My sister was reading Orson Welles’ biography and she says this guy just came up to him, the expression on his face was a mix of excitement and amazement and wonder at her, a girl who looked too young but too serious to be working in this business and to intent at learning more about Orson Welles, the genius whose passion towards films were just as mad as his great masterpiece, Citizen Kane.
So they chatted and they began exchanging conversations about films. The next day he brought her about five films for her to share with her film buddy, me.
The first film I ever saw from that pack was Fellinni’s Amarcord.. And I told myself that if it was possible to love a man, without all the romance, only for gratitude… Well, damn I love this Chris guy! Of whom I haven’t met, yet.
And so each week, there were several others he lent us, a few others we lent him back. I admit since I’m such a couch potato I just relied on HBO, Cinemax, WOWOW, PBO, and the two african channels MM1 and MM2 (which served as doors for developing my interest in classic Hollywood films, silent films, and french films), the ones we had at home consisted of Marlon Brando’s and Jimmy Stewart’s films, Hitchcock, a slew of other foreign films he’d already watched, and rom-coms which were necessary for the three of us siblings (the times after highschool got pretty depressing for us), and a couple of classic horror films. We lent him some, he lent us some more. And everything just went deep after that.
Suddenly I felt like this was the world I wanted to be in. The world of complex characters or predictable ones, in black and white or in the Silent Film era, in talkies, in Propagandistic films, in all the rom-coms, campiness of local drama, and the smoking ways of the Parisians during the 40s to 70s, I wanted a tragedy as written by Woody Allen or a youthful resilience as told by the folks at Studio Giblhi.
When I was younger I wanted to be so many things because my parents allowed me to choose. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a Broadway [super]star, an impersonator, a singer, an actress, a writer, a lawyer, an archaeologist, a philanthropist, a psychologist, a playwright. But when I lost my mom to cancer in Christmas of ’06, the hopes of achieving anything became minimal. As luck would have it, I became optimistic when I had learnt that I passed this Science and Tech scholarship. Which meant I could go to good schools. But my dying wish to go to UP and all of a sudden I couldn’t afford to go there either. And I suddenly added “Systems Administrator” and “Computer Engineer” to the things I wanted to be.
I took up IT in college because it was also known as Instant Trabaho or the most in demand job out there. I realized through the subjects I had which were all about computers, and it wasn’t something for me. I realized that I had myself stuck in a situation that’s never gonna work out for me. So, I left school early and decided to work early. I had to drop out of my scholarship, and work at 17.
I wrote this two page review for the movie Serendipity in high school and I never thought that my teacher would be impressed. I had forgotten all about that. I knew I should have went to college and pursued something I really, truly wanted which was to study film. To be a part of it all. It was BA Film all along. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
The first time I finally met Chris was at this monthly film screening in Cubao. The group had a tribute to (komiks guy, Susan Roces and Eddie Garcia flick) and I didn’t know that the place was a bit religious. Well, my twin mentioned it but I thought it wasn’t that religious. So we wore dresses and stockings.. And our faces were filled with make-up, sixties style! Our hair was all over the place as usual. So when he met us at the gate, there was that smile that one would know when they’d seen an old friend. His smile was that warm. He laughed when I told him the nuns gave us a look of disapproval as we walked in.
The thing about living in San Jose del Monte was that it was in the middle of the urban and the rural. So when film festivals started popping up here and there, the travel time my twin and I needed was at a minimum of two hours. Hence, whenever Chris would invite us to festivals or film screenings, we’d always be an hour late. Plus, we worked in call centers and most film screenings occur by the time we’re asleep or in the middle of our shifts. And yes I do feel like I’ve been making up excuses my whole life.
For some awesome luck of time management, Chris was always, almost always present during these festivities. Especially one Saturday each month in Cubao. I haven’t met anyone else (apart from Queen and my boyfriend) whom I can talk to about every character, every detail about the film but Chris. He was just as enthusiastic. And he listened and he shared everything he knew about films.
He introduced Queen and I to this “underground” film society formed by these guys from UP and PUP and Titus Brandsma. This society was formed in Facebook of all places. There were about a hundred when he added us up. And it was interesting in many ways. Forums bored me to death but conversations that took place in Cinephiles were entertaining, educational, and sometimes emotional (why the fuck post a spoiler filled review?!?!). I owe Chris the opportunity to meet these people. To be included in that group.
The very last time I saw Chris I told him about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. I didn’t have that Spring Breakahs forevah vibe with me but I tried my best not to be a pussy in front of him. He’d lost so much weight from the cancer. The Big C yet again. I was several hours late though Joseph had texted me to come ASAP several hours before because Chris was in critical condition. I had the same terrible feeling when I lost my mother. My fake optimism kicked in just the same although I understood what critical condition was. When he was gone I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t care less if I didn’t have enough sleep, if I cried the whole day even while at work, if I spent at least a portion of my day during his wake. But I guess he appreciated anything. He did. He really did.
It’s been months my dear friend since I last saw you. I promise to finish watching all the films I borrowed from you. I’ll tell you all about it soon. I told you once how I was so glad to have met such a wonderful person like you. Because you are. You truly are…
Christopher Fajardo’s love for films were as strong as the heroines his most favorite actress, Catherine Denouve, has portrayed through the years. He was a film programmer though his day job was as a telephone banker. He passed away on February 8, 2014 and his ashes are interred at the Manila North Cemetery Green Park, a few meters away from where FPJ, the King of Philippine Cinema rests along with former Presidents, Boy Scouts and other heroes of this generation, and of course my mom.