“HOW could cheap hamburger cost as much as these kids’ innocence?” student Cherry Claire Petiluna, a communications major from Cebu Normal University, asks at the last part of her group’s video documentary “Nelatch.” The video wins the university’s CINEU Film Festival in the documentary category, and was likewise given the special Kapuso Award from GMA-7, which made them P5,000 richer.

In this day and age of endless wordplays, when coinages come and go, “nelatch” might just be another flash in the pan of subculture lingo. But not so for students Cherry, Nestor Moises, Charlette Cadavez and Tara Jane Miñoza, who, with sheer guts and enterprise, went out of their way with a borrowed video camera to doggedly pursue a story. In their sophomore year, these students also composed the group that produced “Jade Court Girls,” a documentary about the “karton girls,” which is worth another column altogether.

"The Manny Pacquiao Blog". Click here for stories and updates on the Filipino boxing champ.

“Nelatch” is gay-speak for “talent.” Just when you think you’ve had enough brief on the world’s perversions, this one’s different. The term also refers to boys who do it for gays. What gays usually do on men these boys do it on gays. One of the gays interviewed said the reversal of role brings him a different kind of “sensation.”

The students’ documentary found a clique of “nelatch” boys in one of the municipal parks and was able to extract first-rate confessions from them. What’s devastating about this is that most of them ranged from 12 to 15 years old. “Para palit og hamburger,” said one of the boys who looked barely in his teens.

As Cherry wrote in her script, “a hideous piece of reality,” but indeed it is one haul of hyper-realities for the aspiring filmmakers. She’d later say, “Indeed, it has changed my views, and those of my group mates as well. I used to think that prostitution is just a NO, period. All those who engage in this are criminals, period. Then I learned that some of them should be heard and be given the chance to justify themselves. Not everyone is given much choice in life and not all choices given are fair enough.

Most people who are in a better position in life should open their eyes wider to see a more realistic view of the world.” The idea gave me a rather interesting notion: filmmaking, or the documentary genre, as a rite of passage. Before they open up the minds of viewers, they first change the life of the filmmaker, and what better time to undergo through that than when you are young, robust with all the eagerness.

Travel is like reading 10 books in one week. The reportage gave them an education they could never get inside the classroom even for an entire year or course. Most of these nelatch boys wait for customers at the town’s park. The students asked a group of kids playing in the park if they know what the term means. The kids laughed and said they didn’t know about it.

But one of them, after a while, confessed he had been one, and said an older brother taught him how. Did he tell his parents about it? No, the boy said. “Ikaw ra,” he said. With that, the team felt the weight of responsibility heaped upon it. One of the gays interviewed in the documentary said nelatch boys are usually older in other parts of the province, but in this particular town, they’re way younger.

Cherry says, “At some point, we were afraid and unsure of what we were getting into. But as we got deeper into the interviews with the minors, we felt a mixture of emotions. We felt sorry and irritated that no one has helped them, not even their parents knew about it. We felt privileged but responsible upon knowing that we were the first people to know their experience. From being unsure, we changed and thought that maybe, if this was the least thing we could do for these kids, then we will do it no matter what kind of response we get.” (More next week)

(januarinbox@yahoo.com/ januareyap.blogspot.com)