• Njel De Mesa: An artist for public service

     Njel De Mesa

    Njel De Mesa

    With the overwhelming endorsement of the Filipino people for President Rodrigo Duterte, cans of worms in a manner of speaking from all sectors of society – particularly in the arts and culture in various guises and persuasions – have been brought out to the open. Whether well-meaning or morally skewed in their intentions or both.

    Caveat gathered this from a recent tete-a-tete with Njel De Mesa, the first incoming member to be installed to the board of directors for Movies & Television Review & Classification Board (MTRCB). Members of the said body from Chief Toto Villareal down to the rest of the members have been instructed to resign.

    Most of the board members acting as deputies have been holdovers from the administrations of past presidents Aquino, Estrada, Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino. In simple equation, most of the board members have lorded it over in their respective positions as reviewer of films and TV for over two decades that by osmosis they have turned themselves into dyed-in-the-wool Yellowtards. So, enough already.

    Some ripples of resistance were overheard due to the dispatch to resign. Bad habits die hard aggravated by the fact that allegedly about four board members will be retained–a bitter pill to swallow by the rest who are tightly hanging on to their walking papers. Cut clean if you may.

    So now for the moment, it’s Njel with the tenured staff literally taking charge of the MTRCB house in Timog.

    If you are not into the arts or have no superficial affectation to knowing it – in particular singing, literature, performing and wearing as many hats in other fields related to everyman’s independent quest for personal expression and passion for the arts as well – Njel De Mesa is none of your business.

    Here’s my caveat: more than the familiar showbiz personas of Mocha Uson, Arnell Ignacio, Freddie Aguilar, Aiza Seguerra, Liza Diño, Amay Bisaya, name them, Njel is well way above the rest in the way of contributing genuine human resource and capacity to rummage through his own pocket when Duterte was cash-strapped and in search of damn good volunteers with no ulterior motives about them but the needed change to break the ties of corrupt presidents running the country.

    When Duterte was in the throes of indecision to run or not to run for the presidency, Njel, like an ordinary man-on-the street for the life of him was there egging on the reluctant candidate and bombarding social media via his own composed rap songs and insightful appeal for Duterte to run pronto or never.

    When the Davao City mayor finally made a go of it, Njel provided the omnibus infrastructure for free for almost all the jingles and materials needed in the nationwide campaign through his production house NDM Recording and Film Studio, believing in the mantra that change was coming.

    Njel De Mesa’s name became a byword among most of the stakeholders of the arts and culture scene in the country even before he could be given a not-so enviable position in the MTRCB. His phone lines were a-burning and he became an instant saint, an intercessor of sort for those who could not get their message straight to Malacañang or those dying to have an audience with the President.

    To give everyone an equal chance to be seen and heard by the chief executive, Njel organized the National Development Meeting for the Arts Summit on September 5. It was originally scheduled at the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) where Njel is in the dramatic arts committee, but the clamor for a neutral or safer ground saw the Summit at the Bayview Park Hotel instead.

    Archenemies like PETA founder and former NCCA executive director Cecile Guidote Alvarez and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario had a ceasefire, so to speak, for at least a day, alongside other artists from the seven arts to draft their own wish lists for the President to address.

    As of this writing, Njel is bound for a singing engagement in Canada with another itinerary to shoot a commercial for his company. Upon returning, he will shoot his first crack at indie filmmaking for Cinemalaya billed Respeto.

    This guy wears so many hats even for all the seven arts. He is equally versatile in all of these with post-modern sensibilities and sensitivities for public and community service.


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