Art By Gilbert Escorial
Art By Gilbert Escorial.

Six Benildean animators share how they translate their messages through the art of motion

Pull the curtain behind the makings and inspirations of the works of six Benildean Animahenasyon finalists as they inspire us with their compelling stories and craft.

By Kara Co, and Salve Tajanlangit | Friday, 22 March 2024

For others, short films are a momentary source of entertainment; but for these six Benildean animators, short films are a channel for them to connect with people and share their message across in a short amount of time. As they remain true to the Benildean legacy of doing ordinary things extraordinarily well, these animators exceptionally showcased their artistry and storytelling prowess in Animahenasyon, an annual festival that showcases Filipino talent in animation, as one of its top 20 finalists.


The Benildean sat down with all six finalists to get to know their journeys and the process of making their films. 


“It’s really the culmination of the best animation films in the Philippines,” ID118 Animation student, Arlo Jhan Bayot, shared, “So it’s already an achievement to be selected as a finalist.” The sentiment is echoed by all the finalists as they share the mountaintops and valleys of their journeys, all shaping their films into the outstanding pieces they are today. 

Mercy De Felix

Ideas are the heart of a project and they often come from unexpected places or deep-seated ideas. For ID119 Animation student, Mercy De Felix, her mother’s childhood stories and native folktales took root and blossomed into her film, Hanapan ng Nawawala. “Parang tinitry kong ipagsama ang fantasy and reality ng childhood ng mama ko na parang she struggled a lot but she also had to cope with it ayun yun yung pinaka inspiration ng animation na ‘to.” De Felix’s process encapsulates how creatives subconsciously dissect their lives and embed moments of love and loss into their art. “It was also inspired by my own stories, what I have gone through with my family so parang combination siya ng story ko and story ng mama ko, story ng parents ko.” 


With a deep desire to properly translate the heart of her film into reality, De Felix shares the struggles behind completing a single project, “Sa process ng paggawa ng animation, sobrang matrabaho.” Mercy also shared the rigorous but robotic nature of creating traditional animation with each step manually drawn and rendered. But despite that, she wouldn’t have had it any other way; “[...] just have to keep trying even though you’re not sure of the outcome [...] result is a bonus, [...] the opportunity is not always there, and when it presents itself, there’s nothing wrong in trying,” De Felix remarked. 


Arlo Bayot

Bayot’s work takes a different route with his film, Tapi, by advocating for the preservation of the natural environment, focusing on the negative effects of human intervention, specifically tourism, on nature’s beauty and the native ecosystem. “I really wanted my film to be an eye opener of some sorts so it can teach some people to discipline themselves when visiting undisturbed places.” 


While the topic was not his first choice, he took it and crafted the film to share the hearts of his beneficiaries. Bayot explains that “Since the beginning, I wanted my ending to be sad so they (the viewers) would be able to empathize with the characters and maybe just maybe think twice before disturbing remote places or altering the lives of other people for their own enjoyment. [...] I empathize with the locals on how they feel towards tourists and the changes around them.” He continued to share that his determination to finish his film was to share the message and reach a wide audience which echoed through three years of sleepless nights and countless frustrations. 


After the film’s completion, Bayot submitted “Tapi” to multiple film festivals, one of which was Animahenasyon where he was awarded as a finalist. “I want my film to reach more audiences but Animahenasyon was really my goal because recognition from the festival would be a bonus for me,” he said.  When asked about his future works, Arlo shares that “I want a personal story now without the burden of having a thesis paper […] there’s a lot to improve [...] now that I’m off on my own, I can create my own film.” 


Ronalyn Olivares

With the longing for recognition comes a longing for expression; art is a response to painful experiences and a platform to share one’s advocacy. This rings true also for ID119 Animation student, Ronalyn Lourdez Olivares wherein the personal aspect of the film was the deciding factor for the focus of her work, Pipe Dream. As someone who had experienced body dysmorphia, Olivares aspired to create a film that resonated with her. My main message there was; that people should avoid comparing themselves physically with the people on the internet because not all online content is realistic – plus, they might also develop self-image issues.” The film successfully remained loyal to its creator and its intent through its process, completion, and eventual recognition. 


Olivares also shares how her passion was further fueled after interviewing individuals struggling with the same issues. “Meron ako naginterview who couldn't even take pictures of herself, which is really sad because she’s pretty enough eh.” Knowing the impact of animation and how it can affect people’s lives; beliefs, perspective, and behavior, Olivares expresses that it is an important medium because it can present and express things others can’t. “Animation shows us different worlds of fantasy worlds that still reflect our reality,” she remarked.


Isaiah Sison

Having no plans of entering Animahenasyon, ID117 Animation student, Isaiah Sison, gave his film entitled Woof & Oovi a shot and made it to the top 20. According to him, a film’s message is subjective and people each have their own interpretation of what stories mean to them. But if he were to convey the message of his film, “I would say that the message is that dogs are very loyal friends and that they will stick with you until  the end,” Sison said.


Stemming as an original idea, Sison’s film wasn’t inspired by something he experienced or someone he knew, “It  was just something I came up with myself. I have always wanted to create my own  stories because I like watching movies, especially animated movies particularly  from Pixar. [...] I was inspired to try to come up with my own original story idea using  the same ‘What if?’ method,” he explained.


For Sison, “The most meaningful experience for me was watching my film play on the big screen because that’s when I felt that all my hard work paid off. Hearing the audience reactions  made me feel that my work is appreciated,” he said.


Jean Chirstain Timbol

Dreaming of creating and completing his own show, ID118 Animation student Jean Christain “JC” Timbol shares his film, Seeing Green, which discusses jealousy and crab mentality, with a wider audience by participating in the competition.


For Timbol, all art has a piece of its creator and stories from childhood mold how we see the world. “Making art is like putting a piece of ourselves in it,” he said. “Don’t be shy. Share your work. Share it and you’ll feel good. If the art is “true” put a lot heart into it and people will feel it. Start making now. Don’t wait for your skills to catch up or stop waiting for yourself to be “good enough” to start or you’ll never start. Don’t hold off your creation. There’s no perfect time than now,” he added.


Having been represented by a friend on the day of the awarding, Timbol shares that sharing the joy and happiness with other people is a meaningful experience for him.


Matthew Ranada

As a budding artist with a profound appreciation for his parents' support, another ID118 Animation student, Matthew Elijah Ranada, created a film entitled Present, which follows a street vendor encouraging his son's artistic pursuits by preparing a gift for him. Ranada's personal experiences inspired and shaped his film, which was awarded the Jury’s Special Citation at Animahenasyon.


Having gone through self-doubt and anxiety, Ranada recovered by surrounding himself with people who love and support him, which is the core of his film’s theme. “Surround yourself with people who believe in you—positive people. A lot of negative people can pull you down and it will affect your productivity. Grab motivation from those who believe in you—parents, friends. Etc. Also, huwag mo labanan sarili mo, hinaharang mo mga opportunities. Believe in yourself para other people will believe in you as well,” Ranada said.


After the submission of their thesis films, the finalists were delightfully surprised with the awards given to their works. While inspiration and motivation are hot during the first stages of production, the animators each experienced challenges that tested their perseverance. The production period was nearly impossible, especially during the height of the pandemic but the finalists clung to their goals and manifestos as they slowly and surely pieced together their films. 


Benilde, behind their success

Benilde played a crucial role in the success of each animation. Teaching basic drawing skills, encouraging students to persevere, and even giving financial support, the College heartily supported each student's endeavor. Each had something to be thankful for for the College, but one thing they share in common is that Benilde taught them valuable lessons, some of which stretch far beyond animation. All can attest that if it weren’t for the support and encouragement of their professors, they wouldn’t have made it this far.


Ranada expressed that, “Sobrang laki ng factor na contribute sa akin ng Benilde… [Binibigyan] tayo ng Benilde ng freedom [...] Pursue mo ang gusto mo gawin. We are like branches being guided and directed to grow in the right path. [...] Freedom to do things in my own way. They’re there to guide us [kapag] may mali.” 


“Without those insights or revisions, hindi ganon ka ganda- umabot siya beyond my expectations. I’m happy with the outcome of my animation all thanks to Benilde,” he highlighted.


Animation serves as a platform for creators to share their perspectives under the guise of entertainment, making it a versatile art form suitable for both children and adults to watch, enjoy, and contemplate. Its limitless nature allows for the creation of worlds far beyond reality, yet it often reflects back on life's most significant moments.


“We are here to be the portal, to mediate society with the current issues. Societal issues are brought to light [...] Platform we offer as filmmakers- we are raising awareness to society that this is happening and should be paid attention to,” Ranada remarked.


The magic crafted by these Benildean animators has been acknowledged in Animahenasyon, pushing the boundaries and standards of the animation industry in the Philippines today. As the College continues to mentor young animators, the community can anticipate more exceptional works like these.


From rediscovering their creativity to tapping into their passion for animation, these six Benildean Animahenasyon finalists have undoubtedly made a mark for themselves, paving the way for talented aspiring Filipino filmmakers who aspire to share their stories as well.

Last updated: Friday, 22 March 2024