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    Film director Brillante “Dante” Mendoza has brought great honor to the Philippines by winning numerous awards for his independent films shot in digital video. He is the first Filipino to win the Best Director award for Kinatay (The Execution of P), his first full -length feature film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, the same year that Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Bastards) and Ang Lee (Taking Woodstock) competed in that category.

    Born in San Fernando, Pampanga, Brillante is proud of his Kampampangan heritage and makes frequent visits to his hometown, and remains a true cabalen at heart. Here, he talks about his movies, his San Fernando, and his SM.

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    Award-winning director Brillante Mendoza with his long-time creative team Harley Alcasid, Jun de Guzman, Tony del Rosario and Chris Garrido.

    PDI: You have made the Philippines proud with your movies, which have won prestigious international awards. How much influence has your hometown had on your films?

    Brillante: “I think my life in Pampanga influenced my films. I base most of the characters and incidents on my films on real life experiences.”

    “Also, I recognize my roots. For me, it’s easier to capture truth if you’re honest with yourself. Since I want to show truthfulness not only with my characters, but also with the stories in my films, I can’t think of any other way except to start and talk about where and how I grew up.”

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    Brillante in San Fernando with his sisters Lourdes Mendoza, Yolly Mendoza Punsalan and Gloria Mendoza.

    PDI: If you were to make a movie about your life in San Fernando, what would be your flashbacks?

    Brillante: I grew up in a simple close-knit family. I would go with my mom to the old San Fernando market during weekends. My parents liked watching movies, and whenever we would go, I recall that they would have a long discussion on what genre to watch.

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    Brillante likes to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga with the first structure built by the Agustinian friars of the church in 1755 , where he used to be an altar boy.

    PDI: Did you shoot any of your films in your hometown?

    Brillante: “When I shot my first feature film, I didn’t have any second thoughts about doing it in San Fernando. It is an instinct to film in a place where I am most welcome and accepted. The exciting feeling of doing what I really want in a special place that I call home is something that I treasure and will remain in my heart for the rest of my life.”

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    Like most Filipinos, Brillante loves shopping at SM because of the wide variety of choices.

    PDI: What would make a distinctly Kampampangan movie?

    Brillante: “A distinctly Kampampangan movie would be about food and cooking and about people who love to eat and take pride in their cooking. It should be about people who want to be and get the most out of life despite their difficult situation. It should be about ambition without necessarily being ambitious.

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    Brillante enjoys a hearty Kapampangan meal with his team at Partyland at SM City Pampanga.

    PDI: If you were to take a guest around your hometown, where would you take them?

    Brillante: “I like to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral every time I go home. It brings back memories of my high school life when I was an altar boy. I will let them taste Kampampangan cuisine like our version of kare kare, adobo, biringhe, and tibok tibok for dessert. I always miss Kapampangan food when I’m abroad.”

    “If they want to shop, I would take them to SM because it offers a wide variety of shopping choices. When I was a production designer in advertising a few years back, I would shop at SM all day and come out with my shooting requirements. I would say that SM is the total Filipino store, Filipino mall.

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    SM City Pampanga – the country’s longest mall, has become a meeting place for Kapampangans.

    PDI: Your own story pays tribute to the talent, hard work, and resilience Kapampangans are known for. How would you describe this spirit?

    Brillante: “When Mount Pinatubo erupted many years ago, many people said that Pampanga would just be a part of history. I almost believed it myself, doubting what the Kapampangan can do given the worst situation in life. But being true to the Kampampangan spirit, we all picked up the pieces and started life anew. Now, we only see traces of the wrath of Mount Pinatubo, but every time we see them, we are reminded of how the true Kapampangan spirit can stand and surpass a tragedy.”

    “Having SM in the midst of what used to be a barren land gives hope and joy to a lot of Kampampangans. It is not only a mall where people go to shop, but it has become like a meeting place for all Kapampangans in different parts of the province.”

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    Lola, Kaleldo and Manoro, three films from award-winning director Brillante Mendoza were shown during his Film Festival at SM City Pampanga Cinema.