• Alya Inciso

The Lines, Time, and Jeepney Drives it Take to Watch a Film in Elbi

Updated: May 2

There are no walking distance cinema houses from the UPLB campus. In order to watch a film in a dimly lit room with complete strangers, one would need to ride the jeepney going to SM Calamba or Walter Mart for an hour or so.

But despite this, staying in UPLB does not mean its constituents are deprived of films. Every month, the university or various student organizations would hold a film screening within the campus, usually either held at the DL Umali Auditorium or NCAS 1.

During these times, the long lines of students waiting to be let inside DL Umali would start from its very doors up to the patchy area of grass in front of its driveway. Sometimes, it even reaches all the way back up to the rocky sidewalks facing Freedom Park. When the line stretches that long, it could only mean two things: the film about to be screened at the auditorium is a total blockbuster, or perhaps, students are trying to get those extra incentive points for their subjects (it’s not just all about this though, trust me).

On other occasions, just as the skies darken, the lines in front of NCAS 1 could even reach up to the famous red staple-like structure beside the Economics building with students lining up as they come from their last class in hopes of catching the final screening during that day. Despite the weariness brought about by studying, those chilly nights would be alight with the buzz of conversation from groups of friends or classmates waiting to be let inside the auditoriums.

Back then, I wasn’t particularly fond of those long lines, the minutes (and sometimes, hour) of waiting to get inside the auditoriums. But looking back to it now, I would have been glad to be back amidst the pleasant chatter, in a long line waiting to watch a work that would surely mean something for me after I finished watching it.

There were moments where students from different classes and courses would laugh at the same time because of a well-timed joke spoken by a character; moments where if not for the dimness of the place we would be able to see a fellow student’s teary eyes as a poignant scene unfolds on screen. But if we’re seated beside a friend, we’d sometimes be let on to know that they are crying or trying to hold back tears by the sounds of their sniffing. There are also times when there wouldn’t be obvious strong reactions by the end of a movie as everyone stands up to leave the auditorium. But as we walk along Raymundo street with our friends, in search of a place to eat, the film we have watched will find its way into our conversation. It could be on how much we’ve enjoyed it, or it could even be on how we think that particular film shows the realities of the world we live in.

Sometimes, the distance between Los Baños and Calamba doesn’t even matter—we’d take a jeepney in the sweltering heat of an afternoon with no classes and catch a film in one of the cinemas in the city. After the film is over, we’d catch a jeepney or when the movie finishes late, a bus, back to the campus. There would even be moments when we’d rather just get off at Junction and we’d do one of the things UPLB students are most known for—we’d walk those streets that feel like a coming-of-age film waiting to happen. We could’ve just ridden all the way back, but we’d rather talk the pavements down with our friends as we remember all the moments we thought were cool in the movie we just watched. Looking back, we’d realize we can’t even remember the plot of the film anymore, but the time we spent discussing it with the people we’ve watched it with is as fresh in our memory as anything else.

When deadlines don’t even make an hour or two of travel possible, films are watched in the comforts of our very own dormitories. A short breather from academics as our roommate pulls up a feel-good film for a not-so-good week as we binge eat our heart out with snacks bought in a night run to the nearest convenience store. Sometimes, movies are even watched before an impending 11:59 pm deadline just because films give us the power to not just imagine beyond reality, it also gives us a chance to chill with a roommate, know a friend deeper, and discover a lot of things about ourselves and others around us.

Looking back to those moments, we’d understand the reason behind the lines, jeepney trips, and even late-night hours we all take just to watch a movie with friends or even solo. In this online setup, we even get to realize more how much we replay not just the stories of what we’ve watched but the memories accompanying it.

Indeed, there are no walking distance cinema houses from UPLB. But the moments before we enter the auditoriums within our campus and even after the film credits have stopped rolling stay with us, sometimes, even longer. The distance from the cinema houses doesn’t even matter because the moments in between watching movies in UPLB is like a film in the making—stories that we’d always treasure and replay over in our minds even as the moment passes.

This coming May 2, TEDxUPLB’s curtains open as it delves deeper into the role of films into our lives. Catch TEDxUPLB 2021: Sign of the Times as it tackles how films are more than just stories happening in front of us, but stories happening within us.

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