One of the ways you measure how civilised people are is by observing their behaviour in places of solemnity. You might think churches and temples. Sure. But for a country like the Philippines where, for many, piety and reverence are fruits of fear of the unknown rather than love and genuine reverence, you look elsewhere for answers. The theatre (plays, musicals, ballets, etc.)? Maybe but hardly. They are places for people with a certain taste. Those who are generally not lovers of the dramatic performance arts will not make an effort to visit the limited number of theatres in the Philippines. Besides, prices for seats are loftier than most can afford, so it is likely that a person who goes to a theatre walks through its doors with love in the heart. It can, therefore, easily mean that only the truly indecorous have the audacity to violate the rules, and they are rare.
If you wish to observe how Pinoys behave in a solemn place, the cinema is where you go. There you will see people of every shape, size and place in the hierarchy of financial capability. Sad to say, we fail miserably. Even the privileged ones and those you would perceive as well-educated. I once (anonymously) hissed at the husband of a former teacher of mine who simply refused to shut up during a screening of a David Yates film. I don't know if I'm under some sort of horrible curse, but never have I ever entered a cinema in this country where everyone acted how they were supposed to. There's always someone loud and obnoxious.
Over the years that I've been watching films in cinemas, I've developed a number of peeves. So in the interest of speaking my mind, here are my top cinema "don'ts".
- talk. It's not a coffee shop. You can tell your friend about how lovely your orchids are after you exit the cinema's doors. And don't worry, you don't have to wait for the film to finish for you to leave.
- giggle at inappropriate instances. Some of us like to bathe in feels during touchy scenes. We don't want to hear your laughter while Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are having a heartbreaking conversation. Cover your mouth with a thick piece of fabric or leave.
- bring a baby and not take it out no matter how loud its cries get. Babies should not even be in the cinema in the first place. What are they gonna get out of it? Poor eyesight and ruined eardrums? Oh, what's that? You can't get anyone to take care of your baby? Well, if you can't get someone to take care of your infant while you watch a movie, you shouldn't be in the cinema.
- give commentary. Yes, I'm looking at you. I came to watch a film, not to listen to your wise words about how an object in it is a conduit for God's protective powers. Also, we can all see that mister-sexy-dude-raised-by-an-awesome-gorilla-troop's enemy has super strong rosary beads and we don't need to hear it from you. If you can't contain your body's reactions to Alexander Skarsgård's sheer hotness, leave. Don't let steam out of your pie hole by blabbering endlessly.
- answer phone calls. So your sister forgot to turn the gas tank off and your house is probably on fire now. OK. Sure. Guess what? We don't need to know about it. You want us all to panic with you? We don't. Take that conversation where we couldn't hear it and do something about it. Call your neighbour or the fire department or something. Don't get us involved because we obviously can't do anything. Also, the only disasters we're willing to know about are those that happen in the movie.
- make unremorsefully loud sounds with the stuff you brought in. You and your food need to pipe the fudge down! We want to listen to Tilda Swinton lecturing Benedict Cumberbatch about his arrogance and refusal to believe in anything other than what the scope of his ego can come to terms with. We do not want to hear the sound of your Piatos packet; we do not want to hear the ruffle of the plastic bag containing the plethora of snacks you brought into the cinema; and we certainly do not want to hear your horrendous eating sounds.
- kick my chair. Unless you can prove that you are genuinely at risk of hampered blood circulation or deep vein thrombosis and you really could not avoid hitting the back of my chair when you stretch your legs every 5 minutes, you will not be forgiven. And, please, if you have ADD or Tourette Syndrome, ask the mysterious people with the torches to transfer you to a vacant seat in the front row or tell me in advance so I don't think you're just doing it for the kicks.
- enter and/or leave in the middle of a film. So the people at the entrance doors let people in even if screening has already started. Do you really have to? Are you just alright with starting from middle through end and then piecing the story together after you get to see the first half? OK. That's a neat skill. Good for you! But what's not OK is large groups entering and leaving in the middle of the damn film. It means my view of the screen will be blocked for a time and that is NOT OK. I exercise patience and tolerance enough in the real world. Don't make me have to do it in the cinema, too. This is a thing that Filipino cinemas are notorious for. I don't know if this happens in other backward countries, but this is definitely very Filipino.
- use your phone (unless you absolutely have to). If you want to check your Instagram or Facebook feed, go ahead. Outside. Not in the cinema! You're not in your private space. The cinema is dark (and full of terrors) and we can see the glare of light emanating from your phone's display screen. If you absolutely have to read or respond to something, limit it to short messages. Don't read or type an effing email! Also, make sure your phone's brightness is set to the absolute minimum. We want to see the cinema screen. We want to see shirtless Ben Winchell try to hit a levitating robot with a baseball bat, not that Cracked-dot-com link on your Cherry Mobile. The 7 Famous Horror Movies You Didn’t Know Got Hilarious Sequels can wait. It's not going anywhere, but my patience sure is.