Once There was a Love (1991)

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Basic Information: Direction: Maryo J. De Los Reyes; Cast: Vilma Santos, Aga Muhlach, Mari Kaimo; Loly Mara, Ana Feliciano, Minnie Aguilar, Pilar De Leon; Story: Raquel N. Villavicencio; Executive Producer: Chit A. Guerrero; Associate Producer: Arnel S. Natividad; Assistant Director: Jun Payawal; Production manager Pong Mercado; Technical Director: Mar Matias; Technical Supervisor: Romy Veron; Production Designer: Judy Lou De Pio; Director of Photography: Charlie Peralta; Production Supervisor: Aida Pandialan; Assistants to the Director: Lowee Boots, Angelo G. Martin; Production Assistants: Vangie M. Parinas, Lorna Montero; Supervising Editor: Jess Navarro; VTR Editor: Bong Cruz; Talent Coordinator: Mae Esguerra; PRO: Jun Nardo, The El Oro Group; Musical Scorer: Ruben Cadsawan; Cameramen: Bong Cerezo, Arthur Lintag, Ben Resuta, Lando Quiambao, Willy Bustaquio; Art Director: Ding Habal; Propsmen: Angelo De Vera, Rede Moveno; Custume Mistress: Marivic Padilla; Audiomen: Obet Salad, Dado Estandarte; Lightning consultants of GMA-7: Rene Saves, Alex Teston; Stills: Gerry Ocampo, Rod Samson; Charger Operator: Maloy De Jesus; Make-up Artist: Carmen Espineli; Hair Dresser: Medy Sordan of Jun Encarnacion; Sketches: Gerrie Francisco; Utility: Marie Barbarqui, Andy Topacio, Helen Vergarra; Production Services: Erming Nicdao; Post Production: Gammatex Video Services, GMA-7; Producers: Vilma Santos Inc., GMA-7 Radio and Television Arts; Released on video by Viva Films

Plot Description: Soon to be married Sylvia (Vilma Santos) met a younger man, Jason (Agah Muhlach) when the later asked to stay temporarily in her house. He run away from his rich parents who wanted him to leave the country permanently. The two fell-in love but got into a car accident when they decided to elope after his parents discovered their relationship. When Jason died Sylvia decided not to marry his fiance, Mari (Mari Kaimo). – FRV

Film Achievement: First colloboration between Aga Muhlack and Vilma Santos (the other projects were Sinungaling Mong Puso in 1992 and Nag-iisang Bituin in 1994).

Film Review: – Once there was a love started as Sylvia (Vilma Santos) is about to get married. She looks hesitating but she is fully dressed in her wedding gown and asked her helper to temporarily leave her alone. Afterwards she took a picture of a man in her drawer and the flask back story starts. Jason (Aga Muhlach) came to Manila from Davao. He went to see Sylvia’s niece who used to live with her. Sylvia’s niece no longer lives with her and so he asked him to leave. For some reason she had this inclination to help him and she allowed him to stay in her house temporarily undil he found a place to stay. As turned out Jason’s parent died from a plane crash and he has nowhere to go. For some reason Sylvia allowed the young adult to stay in her placed more until he found a job.

As both become comfortable at each other, they found they have chemistry and the next scenes where the cutesy stages comes in as the old woman falls for the younger guy. Sylvia as turned out is a frustrated artist, she inherited her parent’s wealth but decided to continue her career. When Jason found a temporary job, she asked him to still stay at her place as their relationship blosooms despite their age gap. Then Sylvia’s fiance, Mari (Mari Kaimo) came back from abroad and triangle begins. Sylvia lied to Mari and introduced Jason as their neighbour, who is using their pool to help him with his water theraphy for his broken leg.

Broken-hearted, he then decided to leave Sylvia’s place and moved to his work place. Sylvia and Jason got together a second time when he visited her in a house party after a few weeks and because the dog they adopted together died while crossing the street in his new placed. The two were sad about the news and the attraction finally caved in and they had sex. Sylvia postponed the wedding with Mari. Mari confronted her action but she remained firm about her decision. Sylvia and Jason continued their decision until his mom came out from the scene, as it turned out their both alive and he elope the family because he doesn’t want to go with them in Canada. His mother then warned them that she will file a lawsuit against Sylvia for corruption of minor.

Jason left Sylvia’s place but called her one night with the idea of both of them eloping. She met her in a bus station but she said no and he left for an unknow destination. But Sylvia had a change of heart and she drove to follow the bus. She finally catched up with Jason and they drove to an unknown destination. All is well until they reached their final destination. The two had an car accident. Sylvia survived but Jason died. Flash back to current day, Sylvia’s wedding day, Mari asked her not to continue the wedding if she is no longer loves him, if she still in love with the dead, Jason. The film for TV ended with Sylvia talking to the dead Jason from the hospital bed.

This was the prelude to Vi-Aga’s box-office hit movie, “Sinungaling Mong Puso” under Regal Films. It is obvious that Vi and Aga has a charisma on screen. Despite the obvious real life age gap, their roles in both this film for TV and the Regal produced film, made their real-life ages not a hindrance but realistic treatment to the May-December affair genre. Obviously, the film is better and their roles in the film were fully developed compare to this TV movie.

Nevertheless both Vilma and Aga gave a convincing performances. Aga has shown the dramatic prowess he possessed during this early part of his career. As Jason, he brought his boyishly look and natural timing with his light moments with Vi just like in Sinungaling Mong Puso in their first meeting scenes in a disco bar. Btw, Aga’s Characters in, Once There was a Love and Sinungaling Mong Puso, were both named Jason. Vilma on the other hand had a weak start but came out strong at the very end. We can’t just believe she decided to allowed a stranger to her house in a middle of the night and fall for him, even taking care of him after one night. It lacks the preparation for the two characters to fall for each other that quick, unlike in Sinungaling Mong Puso where their first meeting was more convincing, we were prepared as both characters were established early on with their boring lives. Mari Kamio’s performance here is also weak and he obviously didn’t speak Tagalog.

Raquel Villavicencio’s writing here is not at far with her other works like Minsan pa nating hagkan ang nakaraan, Ibigay Mo Sa Akin Ang Bukas and Relasyon. Maryo De Los Reyes’ direction was quite limited to it’s TV genre, with slow pacing and commercial breaks even made it more tedious to watch. The scoring of Ruben Cadsawan, was so bad its like watching an old soap opera from the radio days of Tiya Delly (Yes, Ruben is the musical director of Vilma)! The so called “canned” music screaming in our ears in almost every dramatic scenes. Two pop music came out during its major scenes, Phil Collins’ “Grovy Kind of Love” and Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” – both songs made the scenes so melodramatic and quite distracting.

Overall, “Once there was a Love” is good prep for Vi-Aga’s team, (they ended up doing two films, “Sinungaling Mong Puso” and “Nag-Iisang Bituin”) but it’s limitation was so evident with its lack of character development, shallow story telling, and low production value. Although this is a film made for television, it is quire a disappointment that this is Vilma Santos produced project considering she is not a newbie when it comes producing.” – FRV

“…Aga’s on and off career worked to a great disadvantage, making producers and fans shun away from him. However, his wholesome, totally refreshing and boyishly-appealing look makes him adorable on screen. His latest TV opus with Vilma Santos titled “Once There Was a Love” was a success prompting many producers to get him again in the movies. Asked why his carer never really took off, he says: “Well, I lack the much-needed support in my career. There were many times I’m almost there, tapos wala namang kasunod agad; so napaglilipasan agad, di ba? I am also partly to be blamed because I was in a limbo for a while. All I know and care about is that I have the money spend on luxurious cars, squash, water sports and my nightlife. I also keep on changing managers.” This year, Aga is quite determined to become serious with his career. he’s slated to do movies outside Regal Films – for RJ Films, Seiko and Viva. It also means having to lose weight for his comeback on the big screen. He says: “I want to look really good when I start doing more movies this year. I’m on a liquid diet. I don’t eat anything. For the meantime I only drink juice, water and slim-fast.” Aside from cutting his food intake, Aga likewise cuts his expenses. “I’m really saving for the future now. I can’t afford to maintain more expensive cars (at the moment he only owns two European cars, a 230-E and a 7-35). I also have to do away with my water sports for awhile. Alam ko ang mawalan ng pera and one thing with me, I never run to my parents to ask for some if I need it. Ever since I started working at afe 14, I’m my own…” – Jackie R, Manila Standard, 9 Jan 1991, p17 (READ MORE)

“… A kind of homage is paid her when she’s paired with younger stars like Eric Quizon and Aga Muhlach. “Definitely, I feel flattered. But then I feel very very secure in my age and with myself. It’s a matter of self-confidence, of knowing that when they look at you they see a woman, period. Age doesn’t matter: I have no insecurities about it.” She knows she can look as young as, or younger than, her new leading men – as long as she herself feels young inside…She says she has no hang ups about age. But how does she keep herself looking young? “I don’t know. I don’t do anything special. I used to swim but I don’t have the time now. I don’t cut down on anything. I drink occasionally but I’m not really a drinker. My true enemy is tobacco: I smoke. Aside from that, I know no other vices. On facing the camera, whether movie or TV, I put on make up. But Vilma Santos the person, when in her house, puts nothing on her face.” She is positive it’s not make-up that makes her go over on the little or big screen as young-looking…” – Quijano De Manila, Philippine Graphic Magazine, 05 Nov 1990 (READ MORE)

“…Vi said that her latest movie, Sinungaling Mong Puso, slated to open today, is inspired by her tele-movie, “Once There Was A Love” which also starred Aga Muhlach. I really wanted Aga to be my leading man in this movie since we started our tele-movie.” The movie also reminded her of the time when she and Ralph met for the first time. He was then only 21, or 11 years her junior. Vi does not plan to stop making movies, “I’ll be bored with just being a housewife,” she averred. “Sinungaling…, she said, “is the story of three women and how they relate to the men in their lives. This is more intense compared to Ipagpatawad Mo. She is set to do two more movies this year, one for Moviestars with Cesar Montano and Ronnie Rickets to be directed by Chito Rono; and another for OctoArts with perennial screen partner, Christopher de Leon with Mike de Leon as director…” – Nena Villanueva, Manila Standard, 27 Aug 1992 (READ MORE)

Video credit
: Alan NYC ViSion