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Special Film: Sisa (1951)

“…The film Sisa has a hypnotic grip on viewers. Anita Linda is simply amazing in an award-winning performance as the crazed title character. The story-telling is tight and well-paced. However, the climactic ending seems rushed. It is basically a CliffsNotes summary of the latter part of Noli Me Tangere. The sudden change in pace left me wondering whether some parts are still missing. Is there a director’s cut somewhere? The digitalized copy of the film is not in good condition. The images are chopped in the right and bottom sides. The audio is not clear enough and sometimes muffled. I had a hard time deciphering the name of Sisa’s husband. I’m not even sure if it is really Pedring. It sounds like Peding or Peping. I’m still thankful, though, that I saw one of the best works of National Artist for Film, Gerardo de Leon. This film was definitely the highlight of the UP Diliman run of Cinemalaya 2008. I hope Cinemalaya 2011 has a section for films about Jose Rizal, his works, and his characters. Will we finally see a copy of Gerardo de Leon’s El Filibusterismo? The epic film was scheduled for screening decades ago but the screening was unfortunately scrapped. Is a print really existing or should we just be contented playing the film in our minds?…” – Nel, The Persistence of Vision (READ MORE)

Anita Linda (born Alice Lake; born November 23, 1924) was a two-time FAMAS award-winning and Gawad Urian award-winning Filipino film actress. A romantic lead in her youth, she later gained critical acclaim for her portrayals in maternal or elderly roles. At the age of 74, she became the oldest actress to ever win a FAMAS award, when she was named Best Supporting Actress for Ang Babae sa Bubungang Lata. In 2008, at age 83, she was named Best Actress in the 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival (Southeast Asia Film Competition) for her portrayal of the titular character in Adela. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Anita Linda and Vilma Santos – 14 films, spanning three decades, Anita Linda has become a regular staple in several important films of Vilma Santos’ long stellar career. The most notable were the award wioning Bernal and De Leon films. (READ MORE)

Source: Ganito sila noon 2

FAIR USE NOTICE (NOT FOR COMMERCIAL USE): This site contains copyrighted materials the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to preserve the film legacies of actress, Vilma Santos, and to make her career information available to future generations. We believe this is NOT an infringement of any such copyrighted materials as in accordance to the the fair dealing clauses of both the Canadian and U.S. Copyright legislation, both of which allows users to engage in certain activities relating to research, private study, criticism, review, or news reporting. We are making an exerted effort to mention the source of the material, along with the name of the author, performer, maker, or broadcaster for the dealing to be fair, again in accordance with the allowable clauses. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Anita Linda and Vilma Santos

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Best Performances – “…Her most memorable films at Premiere, however, were in the early ’50s with master director Gerry de Leon in Sisa where she won the Maria Clara (FAMAS) Best Actress Award and Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo which also gave her a FAMAS Best Actress nomination the following year. There was no stopping her. In the ’70s she won a FAMAS Best Supporting award for Brocka’s Tatlo Dalawa Isa, while being nominated in the URIAN for Jaguar. In 1982 she was given the Natatanging Gawad Urian ng Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. She was further noticed in the ’80s and ’90s in Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L., Chito Roño’s Itanong mo sa Buwan, Brocka’s Gumapang ka sa Lusak, William Pascual’s Takaw Tukso which gave her a Gawad Urian Best Supporting trophy, and Mario O’Hara’s Ang Babae sa Bubungang Lata of 1998 where she won Best Supporting Actress from both Star Awards and FAMAS, and set a record as the oldest actress to ever win a FAMAS at age 74. Ten years later, although active in significant support roles, Anita was given what its director Adolfo Alix Jr. calls his tribute to a screen legend in the indie film Adela which opened the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival In 2008. The film essayed the loneliness of a woman celebrating her 80th birthday alone when her children fail to visit her. This gave Anita the Best Performance award from the Young Critic’s Circle, and Best Actress at Cinemanila’s Southeast Asian section. Recently, Anita was given the ENPRESS Lino Brocka Lifetime Achievement Award…” – Bibsy M. Carballo (READ MORE)

Sisa – “…Anita Linda is the recipient of several acting awards, among them, Best Actress of the Maria Clara Awards in 1951 for Gerardo de Leon’s Sisa, where she played the title role, which she considers her most challenging and memorable. “Of course when I made Sisa…Sisa, the crazy woman, in our Noli Me Tangere written by Jose Rizal is a role I can’t forget. It’s my first award – the Maria Clara award…it’s very intense…Sisa in our history represents the Philippines itself (because) Sisa was …being maltreated by the Spanish…She represents the country itself, ‘yung kanyang pinagdaanan (what she had gone through). Iyon ang feeling ko (That was how I felt).” She again won critical acclaim in the role she played for director Lino Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Nguni’t Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting) 1974; Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa (Three, Two, One), 1974; and Jaguar 1979, the first Filipino film to compete at the Cannes Film Festival. Other leading films she had appeared in the 80s and 90s included Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L., 1984; William Pascual’s Takaw Tukso (Flirting with Tempation), 1986; Chito Rono’s Itanong Mo sa Buwan (Ask the Moon), 1988; Brocka’s Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak (A Dirty Affair) 1990; and Mario O’Hara’s Ang Babae Sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof)1998….” – Mila Astorga-Garcia (READ MORE)

Anita Linda (born Alice Lake; November 23, 1924) is a two-time FAMAS award-winning and Gawad Urian award-winning Filipino film actress. A romantic lead in her youth, she later gained critical acclaim for her portrayals in maternal or elderly roles. At the age of 74, she became the oldest actress to ever win a FAMAS award, when she was named Best Supporting Actress for Ang Babae sa Bubungang Lata. In 2008, at age 83, she was named Best Actress in the 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival (Southeast Asia Film Competition) for her portrayal of the titular character in Adela. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Anita Linda and Vilma Santos

14 films, spanning three decades, Anita Linda has become a regular staple in several important films of Vilma Santos’ long stellar career. The most notable were the award wioning Bernal and De Leon films.

Sister Stella L (1984) – “…Sa pagkamatay ni Ninoy, ang napagbuhusan namin ng panahon nina Mike at Ding ay isang documentary na pinamagatang Signos at ang pelikulang Sister Stella L. Isang kanta mula sa binabalak na Brechtian zarzuela ang ginamit na isa sa mga theme songs ng Sister Stella L: ang “Aling Pag-ibig Pa,” na binigyang-tinig ni Pat Castillo sa pelikula at sa plaka. Nang ipalabas ang Sister Stella L. sa 1984 Venice International Film Festival, ang pamagat nito ay Sangandaan (Incroci sa Italyano, Crossroad sa Ingles). Pinagtiyap na sa unang storyline ay Sister Corazon de Jesus ang pangalan ni Sister Stella L. Ang nasa isip ko noon ay hindi si Corazon Aquino, kundi ang Sagrado Corazon de Jesus…” – Pete Lacaba (READ MORE)

Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892) (1984) – “…Vilma Santos’ restrained acting in Adultery: Aida Macaraeg 7892 was due to Brocka’s expert direction. We wish he did the same thing to Tolentino and Bonneive in this film. But then, Maging Aking Ka Lamang is a big box-office success. Brocka probably feels that it’s high time he gives the masses what they want. And on this score, Brocka succeeds enormously…” – Luciano E. Soriano, Manila Standard, May 19, 1987 (READ MORE)

T-Bird at Ako (1982) – “…The direction is tight and masterful. Although one always gets reminded in a Zialcita film of sequences from foreign films, there is a minimum of unmotivated blocking in this film. Each sequence contributes to the whole film (if there is copying, in other words, and I do think there is in this film, the copying is not done simply to be cute or clever, but in accordance with the logical requirements of the plot). The performances, as expected of a Zialcita film, are excellent. Aunor is more effective as the confused lesbian, primarily because Santos is not able to get the rough and ready quality of low-class hospitality girls. Tommy Abuel is terrific in his role as the patient suitor. Fernando is given too little space to develop his character, but what he has, he makes good use of…” – Isagani Cruz (READ MORE)

Hiwalay (1981) – “…Dagdag pa ni Vilma, “Pero isa rin sa pinakapaborito ko is Dindo Fernando. Si Dindo, na yumao noong 1987, ay nakapareha ni Vilma sa mga pelikulang gaya ng Langis at Tubig (1980), Hiwalay (1981), T-Bird At Ako (1982), Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan (1982), Baby Tsina (1984), at Muling Buksan Ang Puso (1985)…” – Rico Jr (READ MORE)

Ang Galing-Galing Mo Mrs. Jones (1980) – “…Ang Galing Galing Mo Mrs. Jones (August 29, 1980) ng HPS Film Productions ang nagtampok kina Vi, Al Tantay, Mark Gil, Richard Romualdez, Anna Gonzales, Vic Silayan, Josephine Manuel, Anita Linda, Rodolfo Boy Garcia, Tintoy at Pepot sa panulat ni Toto Belano, iskrip ni Ruben Rustia at direksiyon ni Cirio H. Santiago…” – Alfonso Valencia (READ MORE)

Good Morning, Sunshine (1980) – “…Every aspect of a Bernal film may not always be successfully realized, but his weakness is outshine by his strengths. In every film, he seems to be ready to try something new, whether it be a theme, conflict, character or scene. He is also out of the few major local directors to have covered the broadest range of film genres and theme with varying levels of success, from the historical drama, like the Bonifacio episode in the unreleased multi-million peso omnibus Lahing Pilipino (1976), to the disco musical Good Morning Sunshine (1980) and the personal, experimental films Nunal sa Tubig and Himala…” – Mario A. Hernando (READ MORE)

Amorseko Kumakabit Kumakapit (1978) – “…Ang first anniversary presentation ng Diamond Films na Amorseko Kumakabit Kumakapit (April 13, 1978) ay pinangunahan nina Vi, George Estregan, Ernie Garcia, Rez Cortez, Beth Bautista, Cloyd Robinson, Dick Israel, Laila Dee, Brenda del Rio, Anita Linda, Angie Ferro, Mary Walter at Odette Khan sa panulat at iskrip ni Ruben Arthur Nicdao at direksiyon ni Maria Saret…” – Alfonso Valencia (READ MORE)

Kampus (1978) – “…Suzette (Vilma Santos) thinks she’s liberated woman who doesn’t believe in marriage matrimony while his boyfriend, Norman keeps on proposing the sacredness of marriage vow. These are two conflicting beliefs of two students undoubtedly in love with each other. Their relationship was put to a test when Suzette met Manny (Matt) who happens to be in accordance with what she thinks she believes in. A campus experiment for Suzette and she was the first to be affected by it. Will she swallow that so called principle and be merry with the one she truly loves?…” – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

Nakawin natin ang bawat sandali (1978) – “…It has a uniformly good performance by the cast which includes Baby Delgado, Roel Vergel de Dios, Anita Linda, Jose Villafranca and the two leads Christopher de Leon and especially Vilma Santos who has done a surprisingly intelligent and affecting character portrayal. Not since Eddie Romero’s Sinong Kapiling, Sinong Kasiping? (1977) have we seen characters who think, behave and react to problems and situations like mature, sensitive and intelligent people. The characters do give way to occasional hysterical outbursts, but they somehow wake up to their senses before they completely forget themselves. And they are people in believable situations with real problems and genuine emotions. When they talk, they are seldom silly and when they are silly, they are aware of it. But even when they are silly or trite, they are never unsympathetic…” – Jojo Devera (READ MORE)

Masarap, masakit ang umibig (1977) – “…Elwood Perez and Vilma Santos colloborated in seven films. The first one was the trilogy that he co-directed with two other director, Borlaza and Gosiengfiao (these three are the most underrated and under appreciated directors in the Philippines), the remake of Mars Ravelo comic super hero, Darna in Lipad Darna Lipad. The film was a record-breaking hit Box-office Film. They follow this up with a more mature projects as Vilma started to switched her image from sweet to a mature versatile actress, pairing her with Christopher DeLeon in five films starting with Masarap Masakit Ang Umibig in 1977. The Perez-Santos-DeLeon team produced seven blockbuster hits that gave Vilma two FAMAS best actress awards that secured her elevation to FAMAS highest honour, the FAMAS Hall of Fame award. She won in 1979 for Pakawalan Mo Ako and 1988 for Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos…” – RV (READ MORE)

Dalawang pugad, isang ibon (1977) – “…Bernal, testing the tensions of triangular love (for geometry books, one of his characters wittily says) for some time now, plunges deeper into character analysis and metaphorizing… In Lumayo, Lumapit ang Umaga, the triangle was unevenly explored: the first love was sketchily drawn. Dalawang Pugad, Isang become a choice for a more stable relationship. Walang Katapusang Tag-araw was a strange reverse of characters for two women and an unusual development of love into hatred and hatred into love, where therefore the triangle was essentially illusions. Ikaw ay Akin finally sets an interlocked triangle on its bases and looks at it (from all 3 angles) squarely in the face…” – Petronila Cleto (READ MORE)

Dugo at Pag-ibig sa Kapirasong Lupa (1975) – “…A Must for the Filipino History Students and for everyone who wants to awaken the innate nationalism in them. These series of stories depicting the fight of the Filipinos against colonialism of Spain, Japan and even their fellow Filipinos abusing the power in the government. A seemingly serious film but spiced with the star-studded cast like Fernando Poe Jr., Ramon Revilla, Joseph Estrada, Nora Aunor, Dante Rivero, Eddie Garcia, Vic Vargas, Goerge Estregan and the other all time favorite artists. This movie even highlighted the comparison between the love of country and the other kind of love we offer to our family and to our beloved as the story featured love stories in the midst of tragic and bloody war happening in our society…” – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

Vilma Veinte Nueve (1975) – “…Adapted from comics, Vilma Veinte-Nueve (1974-1975) was written by Cris R. Marcelino and illustrated by Vir G. Flores for Aliwan Komiks…” – Komiklopedia (READ MORE)

KIng Khayam and I (1974) – “…The film started promising with funny scenes of Joseph Estrada facing his people seeking his advice or help. One was when a man presented his new product, a flying magic carpet but when the carpet didnt fly, Estrada suggested a lighter weight rider. Then veteran actress and much younger, Mary Walter in a cameo role, brought her just bought magic lamp. She complained to the king that the seller fooled her to buy the lamp and wanted a refund. She then caress the lamp and the gennie came out but instead of the expected giant gennie, a midget dwarf came out. Then from this moment the film went downhill. A singing bird, a transexual Ike Lozada being auctioned, Rod Navarro’s over the top villain antics, all failed to sustained our attention. The weak storyline did not help. Patterned with the Hollywood film, King Kayam & I’s only saving grace was the acting of its lead stars. Joseph Estrada’s precense was commanding and convincing as the playboy king and Vilma’s charming innocense despite the sexy dance number at the end complimented Joseph’s macho image…” – RV (READ MORE)

Because You Are Mine (1973) – “…By late 1969, movie producers had been tapping a Vilma Santos-Edgar Mortiz love team. Edgar was a Tawag ng Tanghalan winner. They started to be together in the movies, My Darling Eddie (1969) and The Jukebox King (1969)…In 1970, the love team of Vilma Santos and Edgar “Bobot” Mortiz was officially launched in the movie Young Love, together with the another popular love team during that time, Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III. The Vi and Bot love team went on to do 14 more movies in 1970—The Young Idols, Songs and Lovers, Sweethearts, Sixteen, Love Letters, Love is for the Two of Us, Mga Batang Bangketa, My Pledge of Love, Renee Rose, Baby Vi, Because You Are Mine, Edgar Loves Vilma, From the Bottom of My Heart, and I Love You Honey. All did well at the box-office…” – Rommel R. Llanes (READ MORE)

Ito ang Pilipino (1966) – “…In 1966, Estrada was “just” an actor portraying a bandit fighting the Spaniards, led by Eddie Garcia. Directed by Cesar “Chat” Gallardo, an important scene in the film featured the late Vic Silayan telling the young Estrada that he would be the country’s next president-to which, Estrada’s character answered in disbelief, saying it was impossible, because he could neither read nor write! Prophetically, the historical film presaged the actor’s political career. Who would have known that he’d become the 13th president of the Philippines?! At the screening, Estrada’s leading lady, Barbara Perez, who was first seen in 195’6′s “Chabacano,” was in the audience to watch the “lost” film revived by the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA). The actress shares: “Back then, I kept getting in and out show biz, especially when I had to give birth!…” – Rica Arevalo (READ MORE)

Naligaw na anghel (1964) – “…Ang kaunaunahang Teleserye o Telenobela sa Television ng ABS CBN Channel 3 ay pinagbidahan ni Vilma, ito ay ang Larawan ng Pagibig. Dinirek ni Jose Miranda Cruz at mga artista din dito sina Eva Darren, Willie Sotelo, at Rosita Noble. Si Vilma ay 11 years old pa lang dito. Pagkatapos ng taping ng Larawan ng Pagibig, lagare naman si Vi sa kanyang Radio Drama program sa DZRH ang Naligaw na Anghel, kasama nya sina Maggie de la Riva at si Anita Linda na gumanap na ina ni Vilma. Ang T.V. show at Radio drama program ni Vi ay tumagal sa ere ng 3 years…” – Jojo V. Lim (READ MORE)

Related Reading:

FILM REVIEW: SSL (Updated)

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If we do not act, who will act? If not now, when?

The Plot: Sister Stella L. is the award-winning masterpiece by Mike De Leon. It’s about a nun, Sister Stella Legaspi, who becomes involved in labor strikes after learning about the government’s neglect of the poor and the working class. Her sworn duty to fight for the poor and the oppressed turns personal when her journalist friend Nick Fajardo is tortured and the union leader Dencio is kidnapped and killed. What follows is her eye-opening and the tear-jerking battle against cruelty and injustice. The film broke censorship barriers back in 1984, during the final years of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, for its realistic portrayal of labor struggles, and extrajudicial killings, hauntingly mirroring the reality of Philippine society today under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. – Filipinas for the Rights and Empowerment

The Reviews: Hindi kami nakakilos sa aming inuupuan matapos panoorin ang “Sister Stella L”. Para kaming sinampal, tinamaan ng kidlat right between the eyes. Masyado kaming naapektuhan. Gusto naming sumigaw. Talagang gagalitin ka ng pelikula. Kay raming eksena ang talagang titiim ang bagang mo. Manggigigil ka, magngingitngit ka. At pahahangain ka. Gusto mong sigawan ng bravo, yakapin at suubin ng papuri ang mga gumawa nito. Si Mike de Leon na siyang direktor. Si Lily Monteverde na naglakas-loob na i-produce ito. Ang scripwriters, ang mga artista, at lahat na ng kaugnay sa pelikula. Alam mong itinataya nila ang kanilang kaligtasan sa paggawa ng ganitong uri ng pelikula. At bilang manunulat, naroon ang hangarin mo upang tulungan ang pelikulang ito na mapanood ng lalong nakararaming mga pilipino. ..nang walang putol!

Ang “Sister Stella L” ay kasaysayan ng isang madre, ng isang Pilipino, at ang pagkakamulat ng kanyang mga mata sa mga kaapihang sosyal na nagaganap sa kanyang paligid. Sa pagsisimula ng istorya as siyam na taon nang naglilingkod sa kumbento ng Caritas si Sister Stella Legaspi (Vilma Santos). Guidance counselor siya sa mga taong may problema na tulad ni Gigi (Gina Alajar), isang unwed mother. Minsa’y dinalaw siya ni Nick Fajardo (Jay Ilagan), isang peryodistang dati niyang katipan. May sinusulat itong artikulo tungkol sa mga aktibistang pari at madre. Agad inamin ni Stella na siya’y “walang masyadong alam sa socio-political involvement ng mga madre at pari.” Siya ang ginawang ehemplo ni Nick sa artikulo nito ng mga madreng kulang sa kamulatan. Nag-react dito si Stella at sinabi sa kanya: “ Hindi ba involvement din ang trabaho ko rito sa Caritas?” Madalas ma-depress si Gigi at kay Stella ito sumasandal. Nang minsang sabihin sa kanya ni Stella na kaya niyang dalhin ang kanyang mga problema ay sinumbatan siya nito: “Madaling magsalita. Hindi naman ikaw ang nahihirapan. Paano mo alam, hindi ka naman dumaan sa hirap? Nagbuntis ka na ba? Laging masakit ang suso mo. Nahihirapan kang tumae.” At nang patuloy pa ring malamig si Stella ay sinabi nito: “Bakit hindi ka gumaya sa ‘kin? Nagagalit, nagmumura, nagpapabuntis?”

May kaibigang madre si Stella, si Sister Stella Bautista (Laurice Guillen). Involved ito sa social action work at kasalukuyang tumutulong sa Barrio Agoho, isang factory town, na kung saan ang mga manggagawa sa Republic Cooking Oil ay nagbabantang mag-aklas. Naakit si Stella L. na tingnan ang uri ng trabaho roon ni Stella B. Sa araw ng kanyang pagdalaw sa Agoho ay tiyempo namang pagsisimula ng welga roon. Tuwang-tuwa si Stella B. Sumasama raw siya sa picket line dahil “pag may mga madre at pari sa picket line, nahihiyang pumasok ang mga eskirol.” Sa paglapit niya sa picket ay naabutan si Stella L. ng placard at siya man ay napabilang na rin sa welga. Puno pa siya ng mga katanungan: “Ano ba ‘tong napasukan ko? Anong gagawin ko?” Sabi naman ni Stella B.: “Basta gawin mo lang ang gagawin ko.” Sa paglipas ng oras ay nakausap niya ang mga manggagawang nagwewelga, nakitulong siya sa pagsandok ng kanin, sa paghugas ng plato. Nakilala niya ang lider ng mga welgista na si Dencio (Tony Santos) at ang asawa nitong si Auring (Anita Linda). Nang makita ni Nick ang mga larawang kuha sa welga at kabilang doon si Stella, nasabi nito sa kanyang editor (Liza Lorena): “Kilala ko si Stella. Madali siyang maimpluwensiyahan. Baka kung ano na ang napulot noon sa tokayo niyang radikal.” Nagsimula namang kuwestiyunin ni Stella ang trabaho niya sa Caritas. Binalaan siya ng kanyang superyorang si Juaning (Adul de Leon): “Hindi social action ang linya natin. At tandaan mo ang sabi ng Papa: huwag tayong humalo sa politika.” Sa kanyang mga alinlangan kung tama ang pasiya niyang maglingkod sa Agoho, ito ang payo ni Stella B.: “Paano mo malalaman kung hindi mo susubukan? Hindi ang mga tao ang dapat makinig sa ‘yo, ikaw ang dapat makinig sa kanila.” Dahil sa kanyang karanasan sa Agoho, nasabi ni Stella kay Gigi: “Ang kahirapang nababasa’t naririnig ko lamang ay naging buhay na sa akin. Ako pala’y nangangapa ring tulad mo.” Namulat ang mata niya sa “pang-aabuso sa mga naaapi” at na-touch siya ng “pag-aasikaso ng mga ito.” Aniya: “Sila na ang nangangailangan ay kami pa ang kanilang iniintindi.”

Duda pa rin si Nick sa involvement niya sa welga. Pasulpot-sulpot lang daw siya roon, patulong-tulong. “Kapag nagsawa ka,” anito, “uuwi ka rin sa komportableng kumbento.” Si Stella B. ay kinailangan namang magpunta sa Davao upang tumulong sa isa pa nilang kasamahan doon, lalong nangamba si Stella L. na iiwanan siya nito sa Agoho. “Baka hindi ko kaya,” aniya. Sabi naman ni Stella B. “Puro ka baka, e, kailan mo pa malalaman?” Pinatawag uli si Stella ni Juaning. Sabi nito: “Hindi payag ang kongregasyon sa trabaho mo sa Barrio Agoho.” Sa pagbabalik niya sa Caritas, nagpatiwakal naman si Gigi. Lalong naguluhan si Stella. “Parang bumaliktad ang mundo ko,” aniya. “Marami akong tinatanong. Bakit nga ba ako nag madre?” Sabi naman ni Stella B.: “Madreng lansangan ka pa rin hanggang mamatay ka.” Natuloy ang pag-alis nito, na ang akala’y pinoproblema niya na baka may pagtingin pa rin siya kay Nick. Bilin pa nito: “Kung mahal mo siya, sundin mong feeling mo. Marami namang paraan ngpaglilingkod sa Diyos.” Si Nick ay nagkaroon din ng problema sa trabaho niya. Isang artikulo niya tungkol sa karanasan ni Stella B. sa Isabela na pinamagatan niyang “A Nun’s Story: Military Atrocities” ang hindi pinalathala ng kanilang publisher. “I-rewrite mo,” sabi ng editor niya. “Bawasan mo’ng tapang.” “Ano?” balik niya. “Gawin kong love story?” “Sabi ko, i-rewrite mo, hindi babuyin,” anang editor. Pero sa bandang huli ay nag-give up na rin ito. Tanggapin na raw lamang ang kanilang mga limitasyon. “Hindi lahat ng legal ay makatarungan.” Nagbitiw si Nick sa trabaho niya sa Tribune at lumipat ng pagsusulat sa Malaya.

Nagbalik si Stella L. sa Agoho at naging mas aktibo na siya sa picket line. Nang minsang lalabas ang trak ng mga produkto mula sa pabrika ay siya pa ang nag wika: “Mga kasama, magkapit-bisig tayo.” Samantala’y nagsimula ang pangha-harass kay Dencio at sa pamilya nito. Una’y ginulpi ang anak niyang si Roger, pagkatapos ay binaril ang bahay nila. Ang huli’y kinidnap si Dencio. Nang papaalis na sina Stella at Nick upang humingi ng tulong, sila man ay kinidnap din. Nakita nila ang pagpapahirap kay Dencio. Sila man ay sinaktan din at si Stella ay binastos pa ng mga sanggano. Pinakawalan din sila. Di naglaon, ibinalik si Dencio. Patay na. Sa harap ng mga manggagawa, ipinahayag ng asawa nitong si Auring na tuloy ang welga. Nagsalita rin si Stella at sinabi niya: “Ilang beses akong pinaalalahanan na ako’y isang madre lamang. Pero una sa lahat, ako’y isang tao, ako’y isang Kristiyano.” At isinigaw niya: “Katarungan para kay Ka Dencio. Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa.” Sa last scene ng pelikula’y nagsasalita ng diretso si Stella L. sa mga manonood: “Marami pa akong hindi alam at dapat malaman tungkol sa kasalukuyang kalagayan ng ating sistema ng lipunan. Kailangan pa ‘kong patuloy na mag-aral at matuto. Pero ang mahalaga’y narito na ako ngayon, hindi na nanonood lamang. Nakikiisa sa pagdurusa ng mga di makaimik, tumutulong sa abot ng aking makakaya. Kung hindi tayo ang kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?”

More than anything else, ipinakita ni Mike de Leon bilang isang socially committed at responsible na director ang iba pang posibilidad ng pelikula bilang art at bilang medium of communication. ‘Yung mga laging pumipintas sa pelikulang lokal at nagsasabing walang kuwenta’t saysay ang mga ito, panoorin ninyo and “Sister Stella L” for it is Filipino moviemaking at its best: aware, concerned, and with a universally relevant message. It also shows that an artistic film can be entertaining and as a matter of fact, is necessarily intellectually entertaining (but an entertaining film is not necessarily an artistic one).

The movie succeeds in delivering its message because all the elements that went into its completion are excellently executed. It is that rare kind of movie which has no false moves. The screenplay is brilliantly developed and constructed by Pete Lacaba, Jose Almojuela (who is also the assistant director), and Mike de Leon himself. The cinematography of Rody Lacap deserves nothing but superlatives and the musical score by Ding Achacoso is served in a silver platter (napakagaganda ng mga awiting “Sangandaan” at “Aling Pag-ibig Pa” na nilikha niya para sa pelikula). The editing by Jess Navarro and the production design by Cesar Hernando also deserve the highest commendation. We cannot help but gush dahil lahat ng aspeto ng produksiyong ito ay maganda.

The movie is sure to elicit all sorts of reactions from various quarters. The bigoted and the narrow-minded will no doubt readily brand it as the work of communists and subversives. The involved will merely find it interesting. But the enlightened will declare it as a socially committed work of art. No doubt that some concerned quarters will be offended. Some of the speeches are so frank and fearless. Dencio says in a May 1st rally: “Ang mga manggagawa ang lumilikha ng yaman ng bansa. Panahon na para ipakita ang lakas ng ating pagkakaisa, na makamtan ng bayan ang tunay na kalayaan. Ang manggagawa ang nagpapaandar ng makina, nagpapalago ng puhunan.” Pero ano ang nangyayari? Tayo ang namamatay sa gutom, ang naghihikahos. Hindi magbabago ang ating lipunan kung uupo lang tayo sa isang sulok at maghihimutok. kundi tayo ngayon kikilos, kailan pa?” Nang mamatay siya, sabi naman ng asawa niyang si Auring: “Noon, ang paniwala ko talaga, gano’n ang buhay, may nasa itaas, may nasa ibaba. May nag-uutos at may nagsisilbi. Pero kung tatahimik ka na lang lagi, ang konting meron ka, aagawin pa sa ‘yo. Patay na nga si Dencio pero tuloy ang welga.” Sabi naman ng anak niyang si Roger: “Kung kikilos tayo, dapat ngayon na. Ngayon pa lang, pinapatay na kami. Kaya mas mabuti pang mamatay ng lumalaban kaysa habang buhay kang nagtitiis.”

To make a film like this comes under the heading “they said it couldn’t be done.” Mike de Leon does it, splendidly. In these days when local film faces such problems as exorbitant production cost, commercialism, lack of an intelligent and responsive audience, and censorship, it is heartening to note that movies like this are still being made. Matthew Arnold said that art and society shape each other so artists should deal with serious subjects of moral and social value. This is exactly what Stella L. accomplished, for it allows the viewer to meditate on life and help him gain some insights. Surely no film is an island entire of itself because each movie is made by several men, but the distinguishable personality of an exceptional director is almost always imprinted on his film. We have never really liked the works of Mike de Leon that much and his movies (like “Itim”, “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising”, and “Kisapmata”) seemed nothing more to us as exercises in self-indulgence. Starting with “Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba?” though, he demonstrated a newfound cause in making movies, which is further reinforced by “Batch ‘81”. Now, Stella L., offers the pleasure of watching a director as he is hitting full stride, his craft and competence marching in step with history. His deft hand is quickly evident in the cinematography. There is no imposed prettiness in the photography, no straining for arty effects, but the texture is rich and palpable to validate reality, with the effective use of color-acting on the viewer to reinforce the temper and tenor of the story.

De Leon handles his intimate and delicate material powerfully, persuasively and penetratingly. He not only executes the technical aspects marvelously but also knows how to work with his actors, both individually and in the here all-important ensembles. The crowd scenes are a delight, with some sequences presented with the veristic quality of a documentary, and each scene is played for maximum impact, immaculately crafted and made with care and conscience, with dedication and devotion. If we now sound so much like an avid de Leon fan, it is because Stella L. is the kind of work that makes a reviewer long for new adjectives of praise. One knows very well that de Leon works for reasons other than money. This makes the strength, sensitivity and symetry of his direction deserve the highest praise and the sweet of music of thunderous applause for it is just better than perfect. Local cinema gives us very few occasions to rejoice and this is one of them.

In the large and uniformly excellent supporting cast, Laurice Guillen stands out as Sister Stella B. She is one film director and actress who is really ablaze with talent. As the instrument to Stella L.’s involvement in a much more worthy cause, she imbuesher role with just the right mixture of intensity and charm. Equally memorable are Tony Santos as the beleaguered labor leader, Anita Linda as his courageous wife, and Liza Lorena as the sympathetic magazine editor who is willing to compromise. Gina Alajar is very effective in a very short role as the unwed mother. In the male lead role, Jay Ilagan proves once more that he is indeed one of our most competent young actors available.

And now, Vilma Santos. Playing the title role, Vilma tries a part that is totally different from her past roles and proves that she has indeed become a highly skilled professional. Her role is somewhat reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s in Fred Zinnermann’s “The Nun’s Story”, where a young nun discovers in a hospital at the Congo that she is first a nurse and only second a religious. But Stella’s awakening is much more vital and revolutionary than that of Sister Luke in the Hepburn movie. Vilma’s transformation from an innocent bystander to that of an active participant who is audacious enough to be in the thick of battle is truly quite awesome to behold. We could almost see and feel the internal changes in her. In a sense, the role is somewhat tailor made for her because her beauty is appropriate to the part of Stella L., but she also succeeds in transcending her established personality, delivering her lines and gestures with vigorous conviction and playing it to perfection that one can safely predict that she will again be running in the best actress derby come next year. And so, to Vi, Mike and Mother Lily, our heartfelt gratitude for giving us a film that has the power to cause insomnia. – Mario E. Bautista (READ MORE)

Must the ability to entertain the audience be the constant guiding criteria in the film and in the performing arts? While certainly, one does not minimize the importance of the entertainment function of the arts, the film Sister Stella L shows that it is not much the ability to entertain that is crucial as the ability to stir and maintain interest. For, as in this film, one cannot really say that the audience is entertained, regaled with spectacular sights, provided a pleasant diversion or titillated by teasing or amusing scenes, but the audience is invited, through the skills of the performers and director, to engage in immediate issues which concern us today. This film thus poses a challenge to our usual notions and expectations of Philippine cinema, as it is not a romantic or domestic drama, a comedy or an action film. The fact that such a film as this appears at this point implies a belief in the development and maturity of the local audience who can, at least from the responses of previewers so far, be receptive to harder stuff.

Sister Stella L deals with the contemporary social issues through the experience of various characters, among them Sister Stella L (Vilma Santos) and Nick, her former boyfriend now a journalist (Jay Ilagan), Sister Stella B (Laurice Guillen), the union leader Ka Dencio (Tony Santos) and his wife (Anita Linda). Again, the film differs from most productions nowadays in its immersion in contemporary social reality. The characters, too, possess a strong active aspect of people engaged in a meaningful cause, the people’s struggle for social justice. The nun that Sister Stella B portrays typifies in her strength and honesty the person who has gone beyond purely personal and selfish concerns to embrace the larger role of service to the people. No doubt, it is a refreshing and exhilarating experience to see characters who realize themselves fully as human beings by transcending petty selfish interest and giving of themselves to people in need of support and protection. Because of this, the spirit of the film is highly optimistic and reassuring because it makes us strongly aware of the forces in our midst working for change and of the fact that history is moving forward with these forces assuming the active role.

The central issue of the film has to do with the involvement of religious like Sister Stella L and her senior, Sister Stella B, in socio-political affairs. We know, for instance, that one point of view will have priests and religious secluded behind convent walls where their activity is restricted to praying. They are to have nothing to do with life around them as social and political concerns are thought to corrupt their purity and bring in wordly moral dangers and temptations. Or that priests and religious should remain apolitical, not taking sides in socio-political issues, but as men of God, considering all men as brothers who will, in the end, become docile and receptive to preachings of love and unity. The other point of view believes that it is not as simplistic as all that. In fact, it believes that the adoption of a neutral attitude can only serve to dull one’s moral sensibilities and because one shirks from making moral choices, one also renouces one’s responsibility as a human being. In truth, it is of utmost importance, perhaps particularly so for religious, to have a fine and acute sense of moral discernment as applied to social relations, in which the idea of truth and justice operate. The religious who makes grand sermons on love and unity may not himself understand the meaning of truth and justice, because love and unity do not exist in the abstract but are social ideals possible of attainment – only and only when exploitative relationships are destroyed. Otherwise, one contents oneself with hypocrisies. What for instance, would be the love of the rich factory owner intent on profits for the worker, and vise versa. Workers’ wages are only to keep workers alive and in a measure of health for him to have enough strength to operate the machines of work in the fields. Is it enough for factory owner and worker to meet in church and perhaps occupy the same pew – or will religious feel sufficiently edified at the sight? But priests and nuns are citizens of this country as much as any of us and are thus part of the body politic in which they have the right to take active part. Likewise, they are as human as anyone else, and as human beings, they have the drive toward concreteness and totality realized only in social interaction. The Church, too, cannot afford to take a position of alienation and withdrawal, because by doing so it will only continually lose its influence in a time of urgent and pressing realities; otherwise, it will only end up as an outmoded medieval institution. The Church is continually called upon to make moral decisions, and it is through these that the people will know whether it truly supports their cause or whether it only acts as a liaison for exploitative interests.

In the film, for instance, there is a conflict between Sister Stella L and her superior who wants her to stay in the convent to act as guidance counsellor and not to engage in labor activities in Barrio Agoho where a strike in an oil factory is taking place. For a while, she obeys her superior to be spiritual adviser to an unwed mother, portrayed by Gina Alajar, who, however, throws her back the question of what does she know at all, as a nun, of human suffering. The task of counselling this individual soul lost in her private hell is fruitless and Gina eventually commits suicide, which serves to show the nun the narrow limitation of such a task. Sister Stella L henceforth knows that she must make the choice of the larger and more challenging field of the workers in struggle. It is also important to note that Sister Stella B tells her fellow nun that although her immediate superior may not approve of her social participation, it is possible that higher superiors will – thus showing that such is still possible within the fold of the congregation. Also, at one time, there arises the question of whether Sister Stella L will stick it out as a religious or continue her activities outside the convent. Upon consultation with her friend, Sister Stella B, she decides to carry on the struggle as a nun, and by so doing, show the importance of such a function for her fellow religious, as well as its validity as a position within the religious orders.

The central event in the film is the strike of workers in an oil factory in Barrio Agoho where nuns show their support for the workers by participating in the picket, thereby lending valuable protection. The factory owner (Ruben Rustia) sends goons to harass the picket line, and makes use of the military, which readily lends itself to protect the minority interests of wealthy property owners against the majority interests of the workers. When the strike continues despite inclement weather and hunger, the factory owner resorts to kidnapping the union leader, Sister Stella L, and her journalist friend. All are maltreated and tortured, but the old union leader is finally “salvaged” and thrown into a dump. In the confrontation between the factory owner and Sister Stella L, the former shows himself to be hostile to the workers and to the participation of the nuns: “Kung pati ang mga madre ay nagpapagamit sa mga Komunista, mabuti pang magbago na lang ako ng relihiyon.” To which the nun answers: “Mabuti na ngang magbago kayo ng relihiyon upang hindi parehong Diyos ang sambahin natin.” The murder of the union leader, Ka Dencio, only lends more fuel to the workers’ resolve to continue the strike, which is now led by his wife, with the militant participation of Sister Stella L. The latter’s exhortation to the workers – and by extension to the audience – to engage in the struggle ends the film.

A secondary theme is the issue of press freedom, which is explored, in the first-hand experience of Nick, the young journalist. He writes a series on the politicization of the religious and their active participation in mass actions. In the beginning, his motivations are somewhat confused – and this his editor points out clearly to him – because he may be using this as an excuse to follow and communicate with Sister Stella L, who used to be his girlfriend. The journalist, however, understands the futility of the religious confining themselves within convent walls and poses the challenge for involvement. Sister Stella L takes up the challenge – in fact, the journalist’s articles contribute to her politicization. When she gets more and more involved, he becomes protective and anxious for her safety. His articles on the subject barely squeeze through censorship and he experiences increasing difficulty in getting published. Sister Stella L and he are kidnapped by goons and they are physically assaulted even as they witness the torture of the union leader. Instead of intimidating them, the experience completes their politicization and in the end Sister Stella, militant and committed, finds her true social role.

Because this movie deals with issues, it has more than the usual amount of dialogue compared with other films. This, however, does not work against it. Since what is talked about is drawn from the very stuff of social reality and thus concerns a large number, it is able to sustain interest. Too much dialogue would be a defect if it dwelt on banalities or inanities or if it narrated incidents rather than portrayed them. In this case, dialogue is necessary for the exploration of issues, as well as for the portrayal of how the characters reckon with ideas and develop in their social consciousness. The audience is not bored provided the things talked about in the film have a bearing on their lives. Filipinos, after all, are a talky lot (think of the large amounts of time spent in coffee shops over coffee or beer). Moreover, these are talky times, because the larger public is rapidly developing critical awareness, and there is now a greater need for interaction and exchange in the interest of survival. There are references in the film which may, at first, seem extraneous, such as Sister Stella B’s mission to Davao where she joins a fact-finding group. However, such references serve to extend the “area of responsibility,” if we may borrow the expression, from Manila to the far-flung provinces. Thus, the unity of the film is not only in the events that engage the characters in Manila but also in a larger over-all spirit of solidarity in which vibrations of sympathy throughout the islands give strength and comfort to those of a common cause. For a heart-warming film, the entire cast deserves congratulations, particularly Vilma Santos who reveals another aspect of her multi-faceted talent. From her usual soft and sweet romantic roles, she can be transformed into a strong and militant woman without losing any of her charm and beauty. Jay Ilagan, Tony Santos, Anita Linda and Liza Lorena are also in their best form. Mike de Leon as director, Jose F. Lacaba as scriptwriter are likewise to be congratulated for making a truly human film and for contributing to the cause of workers for justice and of the religious for the recognition of their social role. Not to be overlooked is the producer Lily Monteverde of Regal Films who has this time shifted from puerile erotic dramas to make a courageous film for which she will always be well remembered. – Alice G. Guillermo, Who Magazine May 30, 1984 (READ MORE)

THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN two important Filipino films in this year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival: Sister Stella L., directed by Mike de Leon and Kapit sa Patalim, directed by Lino Brocka. Both smuggled out to France and both vitally political in thrust, the two films were reportedly disowned by the Philippine embassy in France. Supposedly under instructions from the Philippine goverment, the embassy sent the following disclaimer to the festival directorate: “There are no Filipino films in the Cannes Film Festival.” The two films nevertheless made it to the festival site, though only one was screened as scheduled. Brocka’s film was in the category “In Competition,” and was tested against the works of such eminent directors as Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Satyajit Ray. Early on, Kapit sa Patalim (which acquired a second title, Bayan Ko, in deference to another film project which had been approved before Brocka’s project) was rumored to be a strong contender for the Best Film award. Critic Bertrand Tavernier was quoted as saying, “It’s a toss-up between Wim Wenders’ Paris Texas and Brockas’s Bayan Ko.” De Leon’s film was to have had special screenings, on the unanimous request of the Cannes’ board of critics. Sister Stella L., however, suffered from the rush of subtitling work that descended upon Cannes’ select group of translators and De Leon opted not to show the film without subtitles. He nevertheless had the distinct honor of holding a retrospective under the sponsorship of the French Cinematheque right after the festival. The film eventually competed at the Venice Film Festival. Under its original title Sangandaan (Crossroads), Sister Stella L. was invited to the Venice Film Festival in 1984, the second Filipino film (after Genghis Khan in 1951) to be honored with such recognition. – – Agustin L. Sotto and Pet Cleto, Philippine Panorama Dec 02 1984 (READ MORE)

“…Sister Stella L is undeniably, an angry film. It reeks of the pungency of a dictatorial regime and immersed in the canker of political and social repression. It is Jose F. “Pete” Lacaba’s film more than it is Mike de Leon’s. It is ideologically furious and liberalistic that you might surmise the film as left-leaning rather than simply a hard nudge at the Marcos government. Interesting to note of Lacaba’s background in the underground movement after the imposition of Martial Law in 1972, which, as most of the intellectually enlightened ended being rounded up by the military, thus his exclamation is compellingly evident in Sister Stella L…in the film’s first minutes, we witness a kind of relevancy we could not deny exists nowadays: the separation of the Church and the state, particularly on affairs that have a lasting effect on the people. “Hindi ang mga tao ang dapat makinig sa yo, ikaw ang dapat makinig sa kanila” (“The people should not be the ones listening to you, instead, you should be the one listening to them”), Sister Stella Bautista quietly ripostes, summarizing the supposedly inherent role of the laity in its profession of faith and service. A reversal of such an adage practically prevails in the Church’s current social rearings, despite the invisible boundary. But is activism a justification for the intrusion? Probably dependent on the circumstances. The motivation is noble and not of selfish traditionalism, that the film likewise bestows the necessity of religious congregations to act as a force to mobilize. Maybe the film is too radical in its approach, and frankly, Mike de Leon would possibly agree to that. Like most people would notice, Sister Stella L. is undoubtedly, not a Mike de Leon film. He has a hand in its production, but it is certainly not his. It has all the footprints of Pete Lacaba firmly planted in, from its conception to structure, similarly like what he did with Lino Brocka’s hard-line Bayan Ko…Kapit sa Patalim (1985) and Orapronobis (1989).” – Etchie (READ MORE)

“…In Mike de Leon’s “Sister Stella L,” Vilma Santos plays Catholic nun Sister Stella Legaspi. Searching for meaning behind the words in the Bible that teach people to serve the poorest of the poor, she is led to the picket line of striking workers. Gradually, she begins to see her role as a Christian to be amongst the poor and the oppressed in society. Eventually, the management (and military?) try to break the strike through terror and torture, something that is happening to this day. Different strategies of the strike are debated as well as the “sides” between the workers and capitalists. Although there is a simplistic framing of the “evil capitalist,” the issues raised by the union leaders ring very true today, especially in this economic crisis. No Filipino movie could be complete without a love story, or at least the background of one which thankfully doesn’t dominate this movie. Vilma Santos shines as the unsure but strong-willed nun in the beginning to a militant defender of the people by the end. It is a similar role she plays 18 years later in “Dekada ’70.” The movie ends in an almost-cheesy PSA but the message is clear and bold coming out after the Ninoy Aquino assassination. “If we do not act, who will act? If not now, when?…” – Identity & Consciousness (READ MORE)

“…Nearly a day after watching Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s deliverance of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila, Filipinos in New York, unconvinced by Arroyo’s speech, gathered for a in-door forum to discuss “the REAL State of the Nation Address” (SONA) at the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center followed by an outdoor march along Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, Queens. Amongst the special guest speakers at the forum was none other than the real-life inspiration for the 1984 Filipino film “Sister Stella L” featuring actress Vilma Santos, Mother Mary John Mananzan…Aside from serving as the Chairperson for the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Mananzan has the distinguished title of Chairperson Emeritus of GABRIELA Philippines, the largest federation of women’s organizations in the country working for fundamental economic and social reforms. While in New York, Mananzan was happy to be joined by fellow members of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), one of only a handful of Filipino women’s organizations in the US that are also members of GABRIELA-USA….” – Anakbayan New York-New Jersey (READ MORE)

“…When “Sister Stella L.” starring Vilma Santos was shown in 1984 by Regal Films, it was up against Viva’s new Sharon Cuneta komiks mo-vie, “Bukas Luluhod ang mga Tala,” which clobbered it at the box office. Although it didn’t succeed at the box office, “Sister Stella L,” the story of a sheltered nun who becomes an activist, withstood the test of time. It won many awards and has been constantly praised through the years for being an excellent example of socially relevant filmmaking. Last Friday, the UP Film Institute (the haven of pornographic gay films) did something right and paid tribute to “Sister Stella L” on its 25th anniversary. Ate Vi, now Gov. Vi of Batangas, was candid enough during the open forum that at the time she did the movie when she was about 28 years old, the political issues that were delineated in the film (made at the time that the protest rallies against the Marcos regime was raging after the murder of Ninoy Aquino) were not really that clear to her. “Hindi ko pa talaga ganap na naiintindihan ang mga sitwasyon noon,” she says. “Basta ginawa ko lang ang pinaaarte sa akin ng director naming si Mike de Leon. But now, I’m more aware of the conditions shown there. Talaga ngang relevant pa rin up to now ang “Sister Stella L.” dahil ang mga sitwasyon na pinakikita roon, lalo na ang labis ng kahirapan ng mga manggagagawa, nangyayari pa rin hanggang ngayon sa ating paligid. It was only when I ran for mayor in Lipa City that I came to understand what “Sister Stella L.” was all about. Kaya proud akong kahit hindi maganda ang naging resulta nito sa takilya, heto’t patuloy pa rin siyang pinupuri at pinararangalan ng future generations. Hindi gaya ng ibang movies na nakalimutan na. I’m really proud na sa career at buhay ko, nagkaroon ako ng chance na gampanan si “Sister Stella L.”. Hanggang ngayon, gaya ng tauhan doong si Ka Dencio, marami pa rin tayong kababayan na naghahanap ng katarungan. Sabi nga sa movie, “kung hindi tayo ang kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kundi ngayon, kailan pa?” In the panel discussion that preceded the showing of the film, the resource persons aside from Gov. Vi were Mother Lily Monteverde (the film’s producer), Pete Lacaba (the film’s scriptwriter), Laurice Guillen (who won best supporting actress for her role as the other Sister Stella in the film), production designer Cesar Hernando, and critics Mario Hernando and Roland Tolentino, with Prof. Ed Piano as moderator who cited Gov. Vi’s numerous accomplishments…” – Mario Bautista, People’s Journal March 25 2009 (READ MORE)

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Basic Information: Directed: Mike De Leon; Story: Jose Almojuela, Mike De Leon, Jose F. Lacaba; Screenplay: Ricardo Lee; Cast: Vilma Santos, Jay Ilagan, Gina Alajar, Laurice Guillen, Tony Santos Sr., Anita Linda, Liza Lorena, Ruben Rustia, Eddie Infante, Adul de Leon, Rody Vera, Pen Medina; Executive producer: Lily Y. Monteverde; Original Music: Ding Achacoso; Cinematography: Rody Lacap; Film Editing: Jess Navarro; Production Design: Cesar Hernando; Sound: Ramon Reyes; Theme Songs: “Sangandaan”, “Aling Pag-ibig Pa?” performed by Pat Castillo

Plot Description: Labor, politics and religion are the issues that come in conflict in Sister Stella L. The film tells the story of Sister Stella Legaspi, a nonpartisan religious, whose pacifist stance is challenged by an older radical colleague, her namesake, and Nick Fajardo, a concerned journalist, her ex-boyfriend, in response to the injustice being perpetrated on a group of factory workers in Barrio Aguho. When a strike is declared at the local oil factory, the young nun is thrown into the thick of the strike and leaves her convent work to help the workers in their efforts against unfair labor practices. While she looks upon the matter as an opportunity to put into practice the teachings of Christ, the strikers on the other hand are quick to realize the strategic advantage of having nuns at the picket line. This utilitarian stage gradually develops into a relationship of deep involvement. Sister Stella begins to think like a worker. She learns to identify with their cause. Denounced by corporate officials, the strikers and the nuns align themselves together to fight off harrassment from management and, para-military agents. On order from higher-up, the group’s labor leader, Ka Dencio, is abducted, tortured, and killed. But his death fails to destroy the spirit of the protest. The workers, Sister Stella L, and the journalist, resolve to carry on the fight. – MPP

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FILM REVIEW: MASARAP MASAKIT ANG UMIBIG

Plot Description: A wealthy couple’s sacrificing adopted son, Alonso (Christopher de Leon) and wayward biological son, Alvaro (Mat Ranillo III) vie for the love of the same woman, Estella (Vilma Santos).

Film Reviews: “…Walang ipinagkaiba ang pelikula sa ibang mga sineng tinalakay ang mga suliranin ng pag-ibig at pamilya. Makikitang pinagtuunan ng pansin ni direktor Elwood Perez ang disenyo ng pelikula ngunit hindi naging epektibo ang paggamit nito upang maiusad ang kuwento. Kahit sa pagganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan, animo sila’y nasa entablado. Nanlilisik ang mga mata, walang katapusang pagsisigawan, pagtutulakan at pagbubugbugan. Sa pelikulang ito, unang ipinamalas ang senswalidad ni Vilma Santos. Maraming eksenang sekswal ang aktres at maaari talaga siyang makipagsabayan sa mga tulad nina Alma Moreno at Trixia Gomez. Karamihan ng mga sitwasyong ibinigay sa kanyang karakter ay hindi kapani-paniwala. Nariyang gawin siyang modelo, sa ilang piling tagpo ipinakita din ang pagiging estudyante ni Estella ngunit hindi naman tinahak ang mga ito sa kabuuan ng pelikula. Hindi rin maikakaila ang husay ni Christopher de Leon bilang aktor ngunit sa pelikulang ito ay nasayang lamang ang kanyang pagganap. Hindi nabigyan ng tamang direksyon ang aktor kung kaya’t lumabas na sabog ang kanyang karakterisasyon. Si Mat Ranillo III naman ay tila hindi na natutong umarte. Kadalasa’y pinaghuhubad siya ng direktor sa mga eksena upang mabigyang pansin. Masyadong mahaba ang pelikula dahil na rin siguro sa panghihinayang ni direk Elwood na masayang ang magagandang eksenang kanyang nakunan ngunit hindi naman nakaapekto ang mga ito sa takbo ng istorya. Kadalasa’y nakababad lamang ang kamera at nakatanghod sa susunod na gagawin ng mga artista. Hindi ito nakatulong upang mapabilis ang takbo ng pelikula, nakakainip panoorin ang ganitong mga eksena. Ang Masarap, Masakit Ang Umibig ay basurang nababalot sa kinang ng makintab na sinematograpiya, disenyo at musika na nagbabalatkayong masining na pelikula.” Jojo Devera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…Her metamorphosis began in late 1976 when she agreed to be kissed by Rudy Fernandez in Makahiya at Talahib. It was a “feeler” of sort and when the public clacked its tongue in obvious approval, Vilma shelved her lollipops-and-roses image and proved that she, too, could be a woman – a wise move indeed because at that time her career was on a downswing and her movies were not making money. Then she did Mga Rosas sa Putikan for her own VS Films where she played a country girl forced into prostitution in the big city. The movie did fairly well at the tills. Good sign. And came her romance with Romeo Vasquez, boosting both their stocks at the box office (thier two starrers, Nag-aapoy na Damdamin and Pulot-Gata where Vilma did her own wet style, were big moneymakers). The tandem, although it did help Vilma, actually helped Vasquez more in re-establishing himself at the box office (without Vilma, his movies with other leading ladies hardly create any ripple). In Susan Kelly, Edad 20, Vilma played a notorious-woman role that required her to wear skimpy bikini briefs in some scenes, following it up with two giant sizzlers (Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon and Masarap, Masakit ang Umibig) that catapulted her as the newest Bold Queen. Then came Burlesk Queen…” – Ricardo F. Lo, Expressweek Magazine January 19, 1978 (READ MORE)

“…Elwood Perez and Vilma Santos colloborated in seven films (Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos 1988, Lipad Darna Lipad 1973, Magkaribal 1979, Masarap Masakit ang Umibig 1977, Nakawin Natin ang Bawat Sandali 1978, Pakawalan Mo Ako 1981, Pinay American Style 1979). The first one was the trilogy that he co-directed with two other director, Borlaza and Gosiengfiao (these three are the most underrated and under appreciated directors in the Philippines), the remake of Mars Ravelo comic super hero, Darna in Lipad Darna Lipad. The film was a record-breaking hit Box-office Film. They follow this up with a more mature projects as Vilma started to switched her image from sweet to a mature versatile actress, pairing her with Christopher DeLeon in five films starting with Masarap Masakit Ang Umibig in 1977. The Perez-Santos-DeLeon team produced seven blockbuster hits that gave Vilma two FAMAS best actress awards that secured her elevation to FAMAS highest honour, the FAMAS Hall of Fame award. She won in 1979 for Pakawalan Mo Ako and 1988 for Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos…” – RV (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: KING KHAYAM AND I


The Plot: King Kayam’s search for another wife brought him the escapee, Princess Gracia. She doesn’t want to be wed to a man, she doesn’t love so she left her kingdom and ended up in King Kayam’s kingdom. They met and fell in love. – RV

The Reviews: King Kayam is the playboy king of the Vulcan kingdom played convincingly by the younger action star,  Joseph Estrada. King Kayam has several wives (Marissa Delgado, Lucita Soriano, Rossana Marquez) with several kids, the eldest played by teen star, Dondon Nakar. But with all these wives you might think the king will be satisfied sexually, wrong! He wanted more and asked his disciple (Rod Navarro) to find him more wives. Meanwhile on the kingdom of Salamanca, a young princess named Princess Gracia is being groom to be a wife. Her king father (Ruben Rustia) and queen mother (Anita Linda) are looking for suitable husband. When the princess discovered her three suitors, she decided to eloped. Wearing an ordinary disguise clothes and with the help of her sidekick (Lorli Villanueva), they left the kingdom and reached Vulcan.  Bad luck came into them as they were caught by a bad bandits who are selling slaves into the public by auctioning them into the public market like cattle. When the disguised princess turn to be auction, she caught the attention of the king’s disciple and bought her together with her sidekick.

He brought them to the palace and excitedly present the princess to the king but the princess ugly herself with makeup and the king was turned off. The disciple then madly sent them to kitchen to work. But because of her upbringing she can’t handle the hard work and decided to change her escape tactic by cooperating. The disciple then presented her again to the king and with her real beauty caught the king’s attention. The king and the disguised princess developed a romance. The princess explained to the surprise king that she is actually a real princess and the king agreed to return her to her kingdom in exchange, she will teach him what she knows about running a kingdom. The two went into a disguise and the king saw first hand how the ordinary people in his kingdom lives. With the romance blooming, the wives headed by Marissa Delgado, who is having an affair with the disciple, planned a revolt.  The two entrapped the king.  They jailed the king.  Fortunately, Princess Gracia convinced the other wives to fight back and they freed the King.  With the freed King Kayam, he allowed Princess Gracia to return to her kingdom.  KIng Kayam asked her parent if he can marry her and they agreed. The end.

The Dance

The film started promising with funny scenes of Joseph Estrada facing his people seeking his advice or help. One was when a man presented his new product, a flying magic carpet but when the carpet didn’t fly, the king suggested, avoid a heavy/fat rider. Then a much younger veteran actress Mary Walter appeared, brought her magic lamp. She complain that the seller fooled her to buy a defected product. She demonstrated and caressed the lamp. The genie came out but instead of the expected giant gennie, a midget/dwarf genie came out. Then from this moment the film went downhill. A singing bird, a transsexual Ike Lozada (being auctioned), Rod Navarro’s over the top villain antics, all failed to sustained our attention. The weak storyline did not help. Patterned with the Hollywood film, King Kayam & I’s only saving grace was the acting of its lead stars. Joseph Estrada’s presence was commanding and convincing as the playboy king and Vilma’s charming innocence despite the sexy dance number at the end complimented Joseph’s macho image. The two did three films, although they didn’t shared a single scene in Dugo at Pagibig sa Kapirasong Lupa, King Kayam was their only film together as mature actors. Their first outing was Batang Iwahig, when Vi was just a child star and Joseph was in his early years as a bankable action star. Produced by the late, Experidion Laxa of Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Production, the film was just a mild hit, probably the main reason why there was no follow-up project for the two. Two reasons why the film failed was probably the cheap set decorations and the weak story/screenplay of Nestor U Torre, Jr. The song lyrics of Levi Celerio can’t salvaged the mostly canned music of Resti Umali either. This was despite the splendid musical number in the kitchen (when Vilma protested to the cooks that she was a princess and should be treated like one). Die-hard Vilmanians would probably considered Vilma’s dance number at the very end as the highlight of the film.

RELATED READING:
King Khayam and I (1974)
Pelikula Atbp: King Khayam and I (1974)