FILM REVIEW: MANO PO 3 MY LOVE

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The Plot: Anti-crime crusader Lilia Chiong Yang (Vilma Santos) seems to have everything a woman could want and need: a husband (Jay Manalo) who pampers her; children (Patrick Garcia, Karylle, Angel Locsin) whom any parent would be proud of; and the respect & admiration of the most powerful people in the land. But just as Lilia prepares for her 25th wedding anniversary celebration, a chance encounter in Thailand with her first love Michael (Christopher De Leon) throws Lilia’s life into chaos. So begins the resumption of a relationship that threatens to unravel the delicate threads connecting Lilia to the other people in her life. “Mano Po 3” is a heartfelt tearjerker which was declared Best Picture at the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival Philippines. Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon also won well-deserved awards for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively, in this moving film about the choices we must make for the sake of those we love. – Regal Films (READ MORE)

The Reviews: They say if you strike the third time, you’re out. Thank goodness, it’s not a strike the third time, instead, it’s a homerun hit for the third sequel of this franchise. “Mano Po 3: My Love” was as grand as the first two but with simple well-written story line. The film managed to iron out the past and present events through flashbacks and thanks to the editor (Tara Heinberger), the continuity of each scene were smooth. Mano Po 3: My Love is a life story of Chinese-Filipino anti-crime crusade, Lilia Chiong Yang. A Chinese couple who left Fujian, China in 1959, brought her here. Her mother beg this couple to bring her with them because she’s going to be put into the orphanage just because she is a girl and having so many baby girl, the Chinese government will not support them financially. Living now in the Philippines and now a young adult (Angelica Panganiban), Lilia met and fell in love with Michael (Cogie Domingo), her classmate and fellow activist. Together with Paul (Patrick Garcia), their classmate, they engaged into activism during the martial law. One night, during the curfew hours, they got into trouble and were hunted down by the military. Michael sacrificed himself and was caught. Lilia was pregnant with Michael’s child but he already left the country and so, Lilia fell to the hands of Paul.

Now, a mature Lilia (Vilma Santos), her quiet life was rattled when Michael (Christopher DeLeon) came back. They accidentally met in Thailand; Michael decided to win her back. Both were surprised to learn that Paul (Jay Manalo) deceived them by not giving all of Michael’s letters to Lilia when he left the country. With Lilia being a popular media personality, people have started talking, gossiping about Lilia’s secret affair with another man particularly in the Chinese community. It also added stress to her family and eventually they turned their back to their own mother. Finally, it all comes down to Lilia making decision on which man to choose. She finally decided to stay with her husband despite her undying love for Michael. Then the tragic end. Lilia’s anti-crime activism created her enemies. One of them tragically killed Paul. Again, her family blamed her. The end part of the film was a typical Regal tradition – that of reconciliations. Lilia’s family accepted her again and all wounds got heal. And what happened to Lilia and Michael? They remained friends as Lilia realized they are not really meant for each other.

People are saying that her scene in the car where Paul (Jay Manalo) was shot was reminiscent of her death scene in “Relasyon.” Yes, there was a touch of it but the scene in MP3 was more intense because it’s shorter and the pacing was faster. Christopher as Michael deserves his best actor award during the film festival. Finally, Lamangan managed to control Christopher’s dialogue mannerism. Christopher has the tendency to starts his line with “well….” Probably because the MP3′s script was tighter and requires him to follow strictly each lines because each lines most of the time have other meanings. For example, when the three of them finally met, Christopher said: “Isa sa mga natutunan ko nuon sa kilusan is Honesty.” Which he is actually saying to Paul that he is dishonest and deceitful; particularly for not giving to Lilia, all of his letters when he left the country during the martial law years. As Paul, Jay Manalo, despite his young look managed to convinced us with his restraint performance. I wonder if Philip Salvador would give as strong performance as Jay Manalo in this role. Jay showed us that he’s indeed one of our great actors today. Sheryl Cruz didn’t do much as Bernadette. Her performance was one dimensional, a trap for villain roles. And all can be blamed to the three writers – Roy Iglesias, Lily Monteverde and Joel Lamangan. Maybe because they concentrated their efforts to established the three main characters and so they neglected the others. Eddie Garcia and Boots Anson Roa played the usual supporting roles but Boots gave us the most memorable lines in all of the movies showed in 2004: “hindi ka puedeng magmahal sa dalawa lalake…” of course, with her Chinese accent.

Vilma also will not be far behind with her lines: “hindi ka ba sasama sa kanila Judith? Alam mo ba kung para saan ang kanilang ginawa?… sanay na akong tinatalikuran at iniiwanan yang ang storya ng buhay ko…” Vilma’s performance here was an example of how she matured and became an A1 actress. From the start to the end, she transformed herself to be the character. She became Lilia Chiong Yang. Here are the highlights: Her scene in Tagaytay Highland: Her breakfast scene with her family, where all except for one, left her; The scene where she and Paul finally met Michael in a restaurant was full of irony and sarcasm; The scene where Bernadette and three other relatives one of them was Boots Anson Roa confronted Lilia. Like a true fighter and speaking in Mandarin, she told them, she’ll be back in five minutes and if they’re all still in her office they will see the worst of her; The scene where Lilia and Paul were in a middle of an argument and suddenly they calmed themselves down because their dressmakers arrived (to measure their sizes for the clothes their going to wear on their wedding anniversary) was poignant and funny at the same time; Then Paul’s death scene that followed the hospital scene. All in all, a controlled, restraint, riveting performance. How can someone not noticed? If I will evaluate “Mano Po 3: My Love”, I will give the film an A for its excellent production and magnificent performances…” – RV (READ MORE)

“The performances of Christopher De Leon and Vilma Santos are great. It’s a great movie, the director made a good job. The flow of events and the pace of the story are nicely plotted. You won’t feel unease when Michael Lim (Christopher) come back to Lilia Chiong (Vilma) and interfered with her “happy” married life. Compare to the passed 2 Mano Po movies, Mano Po 3 doesn’t have enough Chinese tales, it can stand alone as a pure love story movie without involvement of Chinese culture. In my personal opinion, if Christopher De Leon character was a pure Filipino, and if the reason why he was separated from Vilma was due to rejection from Vilma’s Chinese parents, and Vilma was arranged-marriage “kai-siaw” to Paul (Jay Manalo), then this would be a better Chinese foundation as the background for Christopher and Vilma to met after 25 years. It might not be a happy ending, but it was a rational ending given the circumstances of the events. This movie will definitely make you cry in the end.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos did a great job and really deserved her best actress honour at the MMFF. Certainly her efforts overshadowed those of here co-stars, Christopher De Leon and Jay Manalo. It’s a shame really that her duties in Lipa are keeping her from other movies. Eddie Garcia, I thought could have done a better job in delivering his lines. I realize that he is playing a character that was not that fluent in Filipino but some of his words were just garbled and found it hard to understand. My only gripe maybe in the casting of Jay Manalo as the husband of Lilia. In the story Manalo is portrayed as the same age as De Leon and Santos which frankly I find hard to believe since Manalo looks many years younger. In terms of production, I thought Regal Films did a good job in setting an overall atmosphere by bringing in good costumes and props. It was also nice to see them speaking in Chinese so as to make the situations more authentic and believable.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…actors Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon portray roles that they have exceptionally portrayed before in their lustrous 40 years in Philippine show business. To even think of casting these superb actors in roles that are at least 15 years their junior, that defies their age, is indeed insulting to the intelligence of the Filipino viewers. But hey! Nobody’s complaining! Right? In fact, they both won the Best Actors awards in the said film fest! Sad, sad, sad…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…This is about Lilia Chiong-Yang (Vilma Santos) a Chinese-Filipino woman. She was torn from her first and only love, and ended up marrying the person she didn’t want (Jay Manalo). One faithful day, she met up with her old love Michael (Christopher De Leon) and things began to get rocky then. He wanted her to choose between her family and the only man she truly loved. The good thing about this movie is she made a decision in the end. For me, this third and last installment was the best among the rest. The movie made me laugh, cry, angry, sad and everything else. That’s really rare the Philippines’ movie industry now. Vilma Santos did a wondrous job in portraying her role. After her 2-year absence in the movie industry, she still had the touch. The only thing i didn’t like about the movie was Jay Manalo. He really was too young to be Vilma’s husband in the movie. They were supposed to be the same age though, but remarkably he did a very good job playing his role as well. How can we not forget Boyet? He was marvelous! Without him, this movie wouldn’t be the best one yet. People say this is such an ordinary love story, but in my eyes, this is the best Filipino movie ever made in my time…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Mano Po III is definitely a showcase for Philippine cinema. It is basically a love story, but without any melodrama. Kudos for Joel Lamangan who brings out much emotion without ranting and violent tears that other filmmakers find so necessary to tell a story. Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos are both subdued but effective in their portrayal of restrained lovers. One particular scene with Christopher, Vilma and Jay is a highlight of the film. It is a scene where the three are having a seemingly innocent conversation about business but with underlying dialogues about love and betrayal. The screenplay written by Roy Iglesias is exceptional, witty and effective. The credible acting would not be possible without such a script. In all, Mano Po is a must-see this filmfest. It was sold out the first time I tried to see it, but it was worth the wait.” – ABS-CBN (READ MORE)

“For the purported final entry in an envisioned trilogy. Regal matriarch Lily Monteverde has pulled out all the stops. The story is centered squarely on Mayor Vi and Boyet, whose cozy chemistry still crackles with a romantic thrill even after 24 movies together.” – Andrew Paredes, Manila Standard (READ MORE)

““As a love story, it is romantic as romantic can be – passionate even. And you really have to give it to the durable love team of Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon to be able to pull off a material like Mano Po 3 and give the kilig effect of expected by most viewers and fans of love stories. It is handsomely-mounted, glossy and very entertaining. Its production values are far more superior compared to other local movies.” – Butch Francisco, Philippine Star (READ MORE)

“Kahanga-hanga ang ipankitang pagpapahalaga ng pelikula sa pamilya at pagaasawa.” – CINEMA (Catholic Initiative For Enlightened Movie Appreciation) (READ MORE)

A week before Christmas, the Star for All Seasons, Vilma Santos, shared with us her thoughts on son Luis and her first film in three years, “Mano Po 3.” She is thankful for the support of her family. When “Mano Po 3” was offered to her, Vilma sought the advice of husband Ralph and son Luis. They need the script, and exchanged views on scenes that they found objectionable. In everything she does, communication lines with son are open.

Fullfiling task: For, Vilma, raising her sons Luis and Ryan is a most fulfilling tasks. “My parents taught me to be God-fearing, respectful, responsible and law-abiding. Luis has never given me headaches. I am very liberal, but once you betray my trust, mag-ingat ka! Scorpio trait ito. Luis knows that, at binusog ko siya sa pangaral. I always tell him that he is old enough to differentiate right from wrong, so he should never do something that he’d regret later on,” she says.

No secrets: Although Luis has his own condo, he stays with Vi most of the time. There are no secrets between mother and son – – according to Vi, Luis tells her everything! On a few occassions, he’d introduce a girl to Vilma, and she’d know instantly if she was special to him or not. Vilma observes that Luis is more focused now. He dreams of owning his own restaurant-bar. And she’s surprised at how thrifty Luis has become – a trait that the actress also possesses. The Lipa City Mayor ends the year with her filmfest entry, “Mano Po 3.” In this last compilation of Tsinoy tales, Vilma is cast as a crusader, a mother of three children and supportive wife to Paul Yang, her devoted husband of 23 years. Then, her first love, Michael Lim (now a widower) resurfaces, and she finds herself in love again.

Three reasons Vilma cited three reasons why she accepted “Mano Po 3:” It gave her the opportunity to work with Christopher de Leon again; she couldn’t say no to Mother Lily, who has produced some of Vilma’s unforgettable movies (“Sister Stella L.,” “Broken Marriage,” and “Relasyon”), and the film’s interesting story centers on a fmily collapses due to infidelity. – Remy Umerez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 25 2004 (READ MORE)

Short and sweet. – Make that short and sedate. The awards ceremony for the 30th Metro Manila film Festival, now called MMFF Philippines, on Wednesday night was over in three hours, where it used to take twice as long. It was also less colorful than last year’s edition and the one before that, which more spontaneous action – a flea market and an auction of movie memorabilia – happening right outside the venue, the Aliw Theatre at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. Even the “Stars of teh Night,” Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, wore back and grey. A series of technical problems early on in the show was the closest that the evening got to be “eventful.” There were no walkouts, no brickbats, no exposed breasts. In short, the proceedings were orderly and the sexy starlets behaved. Juliana Palermo – she who flaunted her assets without breast-beating at a previous showbiz events – was in a cover all debutante-pink gown that was almost puritan acceptance speech – for her MAQ Films’ “Mano Po 3” as Best Picture – was met with no more than polite applause. “I’ve not been making money from producing,” Monteverde said, “but I continue to make movies because I love the industry.” Four of the eight festival entries were reportedly made by her companies.

FPJ in the house Perhaps the fact that the program had been dedicated to the memory of Fernando Poe Jr. contributed to the somber atmosphere. Elizabeth Poe received the posthumous “Idolo ng Masa” award for “Da King” of Philippine Movies, who died earlier this month. “I call on the people to not abadon his dream,” Elizabeth said, “to continue to fight.” Apparently touched, the audience took a few seconds before applauding. Director Joel Lamangan’s fiery acceptance of the Best Picture award alongside Monteverde – in which he ranted against taxes and government’s “neglect” of the industry – failed to rouse as much enthusiasm in his listeners. Producer and festival committee member Espiridion Laxa received a lifetime achievement award. He dedicated it to Vilma Santos and FPJ…”and to Erap (former President Joseph Estrada).” “Da King” starred in the first seven films that Laxa made under Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions. Santos, who was also named Best Actress for “Mano Po 3,” led the standing ovation for Laxa. The Vilmanians in the hall must have thought their idol was getting another award, as they led the screaming in return.

No teleprompter Cesar Montano, winner of the Best Director trophy for his CM Films’ “Panaghoy sa Suba,” won the women’s hearts, too. He was the perfect gentleman and escort to his wife Sunshine Cruz, who needed help with her petticoat as they went up and down the stage to receive awards for absent cast and crew members. The banter among the three emcees – Judy Ann Santos, Jomari Yllana and Marvin Agustin – was light and breezy, although they had to do without teleprompers. This means they read from cue cards, which kept them from maintaining precious eye contact with the audience. Young screen love teams Angel Locsin and Richard Guttierez, stars fo the TV hit series “Mulawin,” and Mark Bautista and Sarah Geronimo, stars of “Lastikman,” turned heads, as did reel-and real-life partners Mark Herras and Jennylyn Mercado, who were inseparable.

7 awards each “Mano Po 3” and “Panaghoy sa Suba” each won seven awards. Veteran stage and movie actor Cris Vertido bagged the Best Screenplay trophy for “Panaghoy.” He was happy, and it showed. “I’ve been acting for 40 years and never won anything,” he said. “I write my first screenplay and I get this.” Santos and de Leon won acting awards for their roles in “Mano Po 3.” MAQ Films got the Best Float trophy. De Leon would admit later that he considered Montano, as his stiffest rival for the award. “I thought it would be him (the winner),” De Leon said.

“A” rating Rebecca Lusterio, also of “Panaghoy,” was cited as Best Supporting Actress. The Cinema Evaluation Board, in giving the movie an “A” rating, earlier singled out the teenage performer as “silent and powerful, full of conviction and charm.” Other winners were Dennis Trillo, Best Supporting Actor for “Aishite Imasu 1941”; Ella Guevarra, Best Child Performer for “Sigaw”; Manny Dayrit, Best Editing, “Sigaw,” Best Sound Recording, “Sigaw”; Best Musical Score, “Panaghoy”; and Best Visual; Effects, Roadrunner Network Inc., for “Lastikman.” – Marinel R. Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 31, 2004 (READ MORE)

Joel Lamangan’s Mano Po, My Love dominated the Metro Manila Film Festival awards Wedenesday evening when it won all the top awards – Best Picture, Best Actor (Christopher de Leon), Best Actress (Vilma Santos) and Best Director (Lamangan). In the Philippine movie industry, the term Best Picture actually means the least bad movie of the crop. By that measure, Mano Po 3 perhaps does deserve the award. At least Mano Po 3 is slickly and tastefully produced. It boasts of a prestigious cast and tries to address a few pressing issues that affect the Chinese community in the Philippines. All the looks good on paper and the movie does look good most of the time but the resulting movie, like its two predecessors, falls short on expectations. The Mano Po series was designed to present the travails of today’s Chinese. Most of the problems they face today are rooted from old traditions that originate from the great land they had come from. In the third movie, Vilma Santos plays Lilia Chiong Yang, a successful real-estate developer who does some important civic work on her free time. She helps the police capture kidnap gangs although it’s never explained how she assists them. She’s only shown accepting awards of grattitude for her courageous fight against crime.

Lilia’s perfect life is shattered when she bumps into the real love of her life, Michael Lim (Christopher de Leon). They went to school together but being an activist, he was compelled to flee the country to avoid being persecuted by the Marcos regime. Not long after Lilia marries Michael’s best friend, Paul yang (Jay Manalo). Of course, a flame is reignited when they meet again and plans for the 25th wedding anniversary of Lilia and Paul are shattered. Such soapy contretemps are old hat and it has nothing relevant to say about the Chinese. Consequently, the Chinese connection feels tacked on – the audience is sporadically reminded of Lilia’s heritage through elaborate scenes (the birth of Lilia in a small village in China) and some colorful costumes and Chinese dragon parades. Frankly, you’ll learn more about Chinese tradition from Mark Meily’s classic film Crying Ladies (2003). Likewise, the film’s social commentary is contrived and rings false, what with the stilted, elementary dialogue the actors have to deliver. Without the Chinese trappings, Mano Po 3: My Love is a typical Vilma Santos movie designed to highlight all the wonderful elements that make her a star for all seasons.

Again, she sobs, laughs and acts pensive in that distinctive fashion Santos is famous for in one sudsy scene after another. Yet even as an emblematic Vilma Santos movie, Mano Po 3 is below par. The Star was better in other films that had better material. In this movie, screenwriter Roy Iglesias and director Joel Lamangan shamelessly force the star to imitate Meryl Streep in a scene stolen from Clint Eastwood’s Bridges of Madison County (1995). And like the two first installments, Mano Po 3 features some strange casting. Jay Manalo is supposed to be a contemporary of de Leon and Santos but when you see them together, Manalo looks more like their son than a classmate. Lamangan’s storytelling is fluid and deliberate but being deliberate can be deadly when almost every scene is all talk. Talk is fine if the words are inspiring but when the lines are pallid and of the telenovela variety, we’s just rather stick to the Korean soap they show on TV. While actors deliver modulated performances, this writer feels that Christopher de Leon’s role is too small to warrant a best actor nomination and award. I think he should have listed in the supporting category but I’m opening a can of worms here. Let’s just be thankful that this is the last Mano Po movie to be ever made. (Star rating: one star 1/2 out of four) – Dennis Ladaw, The Manila Times, Feb 28, 2005 (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: DEKADA ’70 2/2

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For Film Review: Dekada ’70 1/2 CLICK HERE

The Plot

Dekada 70 is a story of a family caught in the midst of a tumultuous time in Philippine history – the martial law years. Amanda (Vilma Santos) and Julian (Christopher Deleon) is a picture of a middle class couple with conservative ideologies, who must deal with raising their children, five boys – Jules (Piolo Pascual), Isagani (Carlos Agassi), Emmanuel (Marvin Agustin), Jason (Danilo Barrios) and Bingo (John Sace) in an era marked by passion, fear, unrest and social chaos. As siblings struggle to accept the differences of their ideologies, as a father faces the painful dissent of his children, a mother’s love will prove to be the most resonant in the unfolding of this family’s tale, will awaken to the needs of her own self, as she embarks on a journey of discovery to realize who she is as a wife, amother, a woman and a Filipino. – Star Cinema

The Reviews

Martial Law films and Their Political Violence – “Films on and about Martial Law have one thing in common: They all include scenes of political violence, often brutal. Asian cultural studies scholar Laurence Marvin Castillo says these allow the viewers to “experience the drama and the brutality of the era by making them identify with those who experience the horrors of the dictatorship onscreen, arousing the individual or collective sense of horror, pity, disgust and rage.” Sitting through actor Piolo Pascual being electrocuted and sleeping naked on an ice box in the commercially successful and acclaimed film “Dekada ’70”, written by the prolific Lualhati Bautista, can make the viewers squirm. The audience were made to feel the desperation of mother Amanda Bartolome (Vilma Santos) and father Julian (Christopher De Leon) in looking for their missing sons. The ordeal leads to Amanda’s political awakening. “This is also why scenes of political torture, brutality and other forms of political violence are a staple in films about the Martial Law, if only to arouse indignation over the visible inhumanity perpetrated by the dictatorial forces,” Castillo says. Castillo is a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne and a literary and cultural studies professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.” – Kristine Joy Patag, Philstar, 26 September 2020 (READ MORE)

True Gift – “…For these reasons, we believe that Vilma’s character in “Dekada ’70” is the female lead, while Ara’s role in “Mano Po” is a supporting player. This is because “Mano Po” is an “ensemble” film, with not just one of two but many members of the central family involved in various ways in slowly and painfully reorienting the Chinese family’s attitudes and actions in relations to Filipinos and to the Philippines, where the family lives, works, and has held her emotions in check to keep the peace in the family. It was only later, when the national trauma of martial law rule affected her sons in vaious tragic ways, that she found the voice and rediscovered the heart to assert herself as a person and to give her emotions full play. We submit that Vilma’s portrayal is excellent precisely because she vivified her character as the wife and mother was in the ’70s. Her thematic and emotional hight points towards the end of the film rivetting, but it was her quieter, more controleed moments that showcased Vilma’s true gift as an actress. During those moments, Vilma didn’t just observe what was going on, she was constantly conflicted only, she had been programmed not to speak out because it wasn’t her “place.” Thus, when she finally changes and expresses herself in the end, the contrast makes her transformation all the more stunning…” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 14, 2003 (READ MORE)

Speak-up – “…We really wish that viewers take a more personal interest in this controversy, make up their own minds, and verbalize their opinions. You see, if films people complain, they can always be accused of being sore losers. If reviewers take a stand, they can be suspected of subjectively favoring either one of the top contenders. But if viewers speak up, they can’t be accused of having a hidden agenda. And if a clear majority of them favors one film, that can be taken as the collective voice of the movie audience, for whose benefit all of these “quality” films are supposed to ahve been made, in the first place. A final word, this time on the Vilma Santos-Ara Mina competition in the filmfest best actress category. When Ara was adjudged winner, we thought she should more properly have won in the best supporting actress category. And when we saw “Dekada ’70,” we knew that Vilma fully deserved to win as best actress. Ara’s performance was outstanding, but Vilma’s was in a league all its own, the sterling product not only of her talent, but also of her long experience as an actress. With her new maturity, she’s even better than she was in most of her award-winning starrers, and all that Ara Mina needs to do is to watch Vilma in “Dekada ’70” to concede that, although she did well in “Mano Po,” Vilma has clearly outdistanced her in Chito Rono’s film…” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 05, 2003 (READ MORE)

Humanity’s Liberation – How does one outlive the monstrosity of the Martial Law years and how do we pose the relevance of such question now when we tend to be indifferent and apathetic to events going on, both here and around the globe? The film “Dekada ’70” raises such issue and concers. Like the monster it tries to exorcise, the film spawns more question for anyone who continues oneself in relation to others and to a contemporary reality. Upon watching “Dekada ’70,” one gets the impressive things haven’t changed that much since then and that we are still suffering post-traumatic syndrome of the seventies malaise. We wonder then, what went wrong after two EDSA revolutions? There’s no effective way of depicting such reckoning than by way of story and thus, the master storyteller herself, Lualhati Bautista, frames “Dekada ’70” conveniently from mother’s point of view, Amanda Bartolome’s, whose coming, into terms with the problems of child rearing, domesticity and sexual relations become the very venues for articulating change and advocacy in our political and collective life. Amanda herself becomes the point of departure for our reading. Her questions and doubts about her femininity specifically her role as a mother to Jules, Gani, Em, Jason and Bingo, and as wife to Julian, are subsumed in thelarger context of our socio-political discourse today. We are not just simply sympathizing with her, but instead we see her struggles as constitutive of whatever far future history has in store for all of us – men, women, gays or lesbians. In other words, Amanda’s liberation is the humanity’s liberation and no genuine emancipation can be realized nor revolutions are complete if a person like her still remains in thedark. Her nurturing hands shall also be the symbolic raised fists against any imminent danger. Where do we trace Amanda’s oppression and concomitant silencing? First, she cannot relate to her husband’s circle of friends. In one scene, she attempts to join a discussion about poetry but only to be repudiated in return.

Khalil Gibran – Second, she notices how her relationship to Julian is quite uneven. One time, Julian asks her to reprimand their kid’s lewd singing. She hesitates and tells him there’s nothing wrong with the song. However, when she has heard her husband humming the same song to her, she feels wronged and insulted. This is one of those incidents when one sees Amanda’s relationship with Julian seems disproportionate with regard to what one says to one another for instance and in such situations, Amanda has no choice but to remain silent and kepp her feelings for herself. She will have to adjust to Julian. Thus, Amanda learns to shut up even during dinnertime when her husband talks. In one scene, Julian talks about how they were seduced by the girls and Amanda’s face bears all the marks of insult and humiliation. Amanda’s alienation further manifests in her relationship with Jules, her eldest son who become an NPA agent. The fact that Jules becomes an NPA is already difficult for her to hear. She cannot understand why Jules will have to go away from her. One time, Jules wrote his brother Gani a letter in which he quotes a poem from Khalil Gibran, saying the sons of light do not belong to their mothers. Amanda, upon hearing what Jules wrote, gets hurt. She tries to communicate her feelings to no avail. Her family fails to answer her adequately. Her yearning will only be accomodated at the turn of the events in the country when her son Jules will be one of those political prisoners who will be tortured and Jason will be brutally murdered for no apparent reason by unknown assailants. Amanda cries for justice and when she confronts her husband that they should do something, she learns from him that they are helpless against a fascist oppressive state. Summary executions have been rampant in the country at that time and this only confirms Amanda’s worst nightmares. We learn Amanda’s silence is indeed a symptom of the state’s machinery control and the Bartolome family function as an ideological apparatus in which other institutions like the Church and the school remain subservient to the state in order to perpetuate fascists’ interests and agenda.

Self-worth – For Amanda, her oppression take the form of the myth of motherhood and limited domestic functions, and thus, she cannot get an answer why she has to go to bed with her husband, in the same way that she cannot go to courts to demand justice for her sons. How does Amanda outlive the monstrosity of that decade? We see in the film how the Bartolome family is not only the stake but also the site of struggle and often of bitter forms of Amanda’s struggle. She finds means and occasions of expressing dissatisfaction within the family and outside as she allies with the rest of the exploited. In one poignant scene, she consoles her husband that they should cry together out of desperatin. She believes there is strength in togetherness. Their vulnerability is the source of Amanda’s power. Utilizing such contradiction, Amanda learns the painful way of discovering her agency, potential and power to direct the family’s state of affairs and contribute to the political stabilization of the country. When her youngest son, Bingo, asks her if ever the pigeons will come back to them, Amanda says they will. She knows both the pigeons and her sons will come back home to her. Her struggles are not yet over and thus the film ends with a beginning, her longing for home. By the same token, we, like Amanda, are also called to respond to the challenge of our contemporary reality. We must seek out also our potential and use the very instrument of oppression against our oppressors to articulate dissent and resistance. We shall not cease from taking active participation in politics because our conditin must be one of continued striving and restless dissatisfaction; a condition more of discenment than complacency to possess the only kind of self-worth of which we can best be at home ultimately. – Gary C. Devilles, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 08, 2003 (READ MORE)

Restraints – So shoot me. Chito Rono’s “Dekada ’70,.” this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival’s second best picture, is tops for me. Not because I like thedecade and danced to it’s music and gave my mother the same Kahlil Gibran poem about your children not being your children but the sons and daughters of the universe – something like that – which figured in the movie, and fleshed out the pain in Vilma Santos’ mother role. It was one of the most powerful moment in the film, full of undertones and unabashed celebrations fro surviving the most tumultuous decade of the last centure. In that scene, a stoic Amanda Bartolome (Vilma), mother of five boys (Piolo Pascual, Carlos Agassi, Marvin Agustin, Danilo Barrios, John Wayne Sace) and wife of a chauvinist (Christopher de Leon) was cleaning the room of her eldest son Jules (Pascual), who had gone underground, so that her other son Jason (Barrios) could move into it. Jules had sent her mother the Kahlil Gibran poem. With Jason rejoicing in the background, Amanda mubles, “Hindi ko naman daw anak, nagdaan lang naman sa akin, (He is not my son, he just passed through me).” This was the moment of Amanda’s acceptance of Jules convictins, even if she still could not reconcile her role in the changing landscape of her universe. Despite its title, “Dekada ’70” is not all about political activism. It’s about a woman’s struggle to become more than a wife and a mother. It’s wife and a mother. It’s about finding a career and about being proud of herself. It’s about Vilma Santos playing her age in a movie, and defying the harsh lights and theunforgiving close-ups. With the events of the ’70s intruding into her family’s life, Amanda comes to terms with herself and her losses. As usual, Rono has brought out the best his performaers. Restraint was all over the movie: From Christopher, who could not cry despite the death of a son, to Vilma, who kept her discontent in her heart, to the actors who played their sons and in whom you would see a brother, a boyfriend, a husband, a professor, a managing editor.

Martial Law – The Bottomline is that they are husband and wife, and why shouldn’t they laugh and cry together in the end. Lualhati Bautista, who wrote the novel in which the movie was based, had drawn from characters whom she had known in the ’70s, like the salvage victim whose body was found at the back of the Ramada Hotel in Ermita, the disappeared professor-activist Charlie Del Rosario, according to Rono. The torture scenes of Jules when he was caught by the military were based on an actual documented case, he said. “I interviewed people who lived through the torture, like the mother whose son was shot in the stomach and was tortured by soldiers by poking the barrel of a long gun into the wound and stirring his intestines with it,” he said. “That was how the mother described it to me and it was in Hati’s dialogue.” Rono, too, is faily acquainted with the decade and with the generals who were in power. His father, the late Jose S. Rono, was Ferdinand Marcos’ deputy prime minister. “I was in high school when Martial law was proclaimed,” he recalled. “At that time, we were in Samar and my father was governor. I remember that while we were watching Marcos on TV, I asked my father what Martial Law meant. “My father, even if he was a lawyer, did not know much what it meant. The first thing he did was meet with the mayors and they talked among themselves.” The next day, soldiers arrived in their house to pick up his father. “I was scared. He was carrying his leather bag where you could fit in two pairs of pants. He waived at me so I thought it was fine.” His mother Carol explained to him that Marcos had called, asking for his father’s service in the new society the strongman would create. “Dekada ’70” might not be the ultimate film about the ’70s, but it is Rono’s vision of a world that was flawed, awesome, even frightening but never to be forgotten. “It was my time,” he said. And mine. – Nini Valera, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 02, 2003 (READ MORE)

Dilemma – Actress and Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos is torn between showbiz and politics. The taping of her 40th anniversary special last Wednesday had to be postponed, following her dilemma about Republic Act 7160, which prohibits public officials from appearing on TV and doing movies. “I was told the law has been existing for a long time now, but I only found out about it after the Manila Film Festival,” discloses Vilma, who starred in Chito Rono’s period drama, “Dekas ’70,” one of the official filmfest entries. “I am not familiar about the law, so I want to know its exact definition and clarify it first before I start working again. That’s my dilemma now.” Vilma’s TV special was schedulred to be aired on ABS-CBN this Sunday, but the telecast has been postponed indefinitely until Vilma can get the green light to work. “I don’t want to start anything only to be prohibited in the middle of my work,” Vilma says. “Of worse, they might even file a case against me.” Vilma has a dialouge with the ABS-CBN executives, who signed her up for the TV spcial. “I had to request them to postpone the airing until I can get a clear interpretation of that law,” Vilma says. “Even if I make a movie, I want to be sure if it’s possible and I will be allowed. “But according to the Local Governament code, a public official can take a leave of absence for three months, like what (Caloocan City Mayor) Rey Malonzo did, so he could do a movie, Kung talagang hindi puede, I have no choice but to follow the law. Integrity is very important to me.” Vilma insists she doesn’t agree with RA 7160, prohibiting showbiz stars-turned-politicians from doing TV or movie work. “For me, there’s no conflict of interest there,” Vilma explains. “We can work on weekends or after our daily jobs in our public offices.” She is bent, however, on finishing her second term as Lipa City Mayor. “Then maybe after that, I can just make a choice if it’s really show biz or politics.” – Leah Salterio, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 14, 2003 (READ MORE)

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FILM REVIEW: ANAK

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The Plot: This is the story of a mother’s agony and her desperate attempt to piece back the broken fragments of her shattered family.

Josie (Vilma Santos) return to Manila after working as a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong for ten years. Her beloved husband, Rudy (Joel Torre), who died five years ago, was good-natured, loving and kind but was not a good provider. She was forced out of financial need to go abroad and slave under abusive employers in order to provide a better life for the family.

But her happy expectation of a joyful reunion with her beloved children is dashed to peices when she finds that her absence, her family has fallen apart: her first-born, Carla (Claudine Barretto), has run loose and wild for lack of guidance; her son, Michael (Baron Geisler), is in deep trouble in school; and her youngest, Daday (Sheila Junsay), doesn’t even know who she is.

Josie is a stranger to her own family. She tries to maintain a happy and cheerful exterior while desperately trying to reach out to her children but they continue to repel her tender appeals. Ironically, it is Daday, her youngest who grew up without knowing her, who first opens her own heart and embraces her into the family.

Unknown to Josie, her two elder children harbor a deep and painful resentment toward her. In their minds, their mother does not care for them. She had left for abroad even when they cried and begged her not to, and she did not even bother to come home to be with them for their father’s funeral.

But Carla and Michael do not know their mother’s side of the story. Josie was devastated upon hearing of Rudy’s death but she had been unable to go home because her employers cruelly kept her locked inside the house. And she had endured another five years of hard labor knowing that her family would need money then, more than ever.

Josie’s problem, despite all her desperate efforts, become worse and worse. She loses all of her savings in a failed business venture, Michael is kicked out of school, and worst of all, Carla becomes pregnant by one of her many lovers. Josie is horrible aggrieved when Carla, in a fit of helpless fury, throws at Josie’s face all her years of pent-up anger and resentment. She blames Josie for the aimless, ruined life. Josie was never here to give her love, she says, that is why she seeks it in the arms of men.

Finally, Josie admits defeat. She has failed bitterly in her role as a mother. What is the right thing for her to do? Should she stay or should she go? Will she have the courage to try to reclaim her family, or will she take the easier way out and return to her familiar life in Hong Kong? – Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine March 2001 (READ MORE)

In their minds, their mother does not care for them. She had left for abroad even when they cried and begged her not to, and she did not even bother to come home to be with them for their father’s funeral. But Carla and Michael do not know their mother’s side of the story. Josie was devastated upon hearing of Rudy’s death but she had been unable to go home because her employers cruelly kept her locked inside the house. And she had endured another five years of hard labour knowing that her family would need money then, more than ever. Josie’s problem, despite all her desperate efforts, becomes worse and worse. She loses all of her savings in a failed business venture, Michael is kicked out of school, and worst of all, Carla becomes pregnant by one of her many lovers. Josie is horrible aggrieved when Carla, in a fit of helpless fury, throws at Josie’s face all her years of pent-up anger and resentment. She blames Josie for the aimless, ruined life. Josie was never here to give her love, she says, that is why she seeks it in the arms of men. Finally, Josie admits defeat. She has failed bitterly in her role as a mother. What is the right thing for her to do? Should she stay or should she go? Will she have the courage to try to reclaim her family, or will she take the easier way out and return to her familiar life in Hong Kong? – Star Cinema (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “Naku, sigurado kaming maglalaway ang mga Noranian kapag napanood nila itong “Anak” ni Vilma Santos. Paano’y bagay na bagay din kay Nora ang papel na ginampanan ni Ate Vi. pero dito sa “Anak”, walang pakundangan niyang inagaw ng tuluyan kay Ate Guy ang korona, pati na nag trono at setro sa pagganap bilang tsimay…Halos tatlong dekada na naming napapanood si Vilma Santos sa pelikula, at alam namin mahusay siyang aktres. Kaya naming inakala na wala nang mapipiga pa sa kanya. Pero nagulat kami sa ipinakita niyang husay sa pelikulang “Anak” ng Star Cinema. Isa na marahil ito sa pinakamahusay na pagganap na aming nasaksihan mula sa isang Vilma Santos, at sa kahit na sino pang aktres, kasama na sina Nora Aunor at Elizabeth Oropesa…Naghudyat din ang “Anak” sa pagsibol ng isang bagong Vilma na hindi de-kahon ang ginagampanang papel. Nasanay na kasi kaming mapanood siya bilang magandang kabit, sosyal na asawa o isang modernong nanay…walang duda na ang pinakamapuwersang panghatak ng “Anak” ay ang galing ni Vilma. Lutang na lutang ang husay niya, mula simula hanggang wakas ng pelikula. Pero may tatlong eksenang mahirap malimutan. Una, yong tagpo kung saan umiihit siya ng tawa dahil sa kababawan nilang magkakabarkada, hanggang mauwi ang kanyang mga ngiti sa iyak dahil naalala niya ang sariling problema sa mga anak. Pabulosa rin para sa amin ang sumbatan nila ni Claudine sa bandang huli ng pelikula. Ke mereseng magmukhang kobra ang kanyang leeg, sanhi ng nag-iigtingan ugat dahil sa galit, at magkangiwi-ngiwi ang kanyang mukha sa tindi ng pagtatampo, wala siyang pakialam. Nakakaloka rin yung eksena nang pumasok siya sa kuwarto ni Claudine, at makitang may lalaking nakahiga sa kama nito. Ang galing-galing mo talaga, Ate Vi!…” – Gypsy Baldovino, Kabayan (READ MORE)

“…I’ve seen Vi act well in several movies. She has a volume of work which I truly admire. “Anak”, though, takes the cake. Perhaps, because of its universal appeal…I cried, especially in her confrontation scene with Claudine. That scene which shows her enumerating the hard work she had to go through just to be able to give her and her siblings a good life….” – Ethel Ramos, Malaya, 11 May 2000 (READ MORE)

“…The slick production is turned into art by its star Vilma Santos. Her magnetic star quality makes her look so wrong for the part and yet she makes it all her own. She’s a natural comedianne and a great tragedienne-her look of resignation is heartbreaking. Vilma discards the glittering clothes and make-up for Anak, but she still looks youthful. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the sensitive young actor playing her son would go on to play her leading man a few years from now…” – Dennis Ladaw (READ MORE)

“For ten consecutive years from 1995 to 2004, the Philippines submitted films for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscar Awards. But up to this point of film history, we remain in the list of countries who has never won nor nominated for this award…In 2000, the country’s entry was Anak (Child), directed by Rory B. Quintos from the script of Raymond Lee and Ricardo Lee. It is the story of a Filipina domestic helper (Vilma Santos) in Hongkong who returns to Manila after 10 years and is greeted with her children’s resentment because their father died during their mother’s absence. She buckles down to pick up and string back together her shattered family…” – FAP (READ MORE)

“A topical dilemma for Filipinas — whether to take lucrative long-term jobs abroad and provide for their families’ future or stay home and play a more active role in their children’s lives — propels “Anak”, femme helmer Rory B. Quintos’ seventh feature. Vivid hook for domestic conflict makes this well-acted drama compelling until hitherto restrained approach succumbs to bathos in the last quarter. Offshore, best prospects outside fest circuit lie in TV sales. Bubbly, indomitable Josie (Vilma Santos) is thrilled to be returning home at last, having spent several years as a live-in nanny for Hong Kong yuppies — and enduring some serious mistreatment in that capacity. Loaded with presents and savings to invest in a business scheme, she gets a big welcome from everyone but her own children. Latter three have grown up without her, suffering especially since their father died in a workplace accident. While little Daday (Shiela May Alvero) and teenage Michael (Baron Geisler) soon get over their initial awkwardness, eldest offspring Carla (Claudine Barretto) remains bitterly resentful toward mom’s perceived abandonment. She goads Josie with serial boyfriends and open hostility before running away, straight into drug-abusive squalor. Limning complex emotions with subtlety and humor, pic resists melodrama until the dam abruptly burst after 90 minutes; ill-judged pileup of crying scenes, plot crises and more crying ensues. Josie’s final decision to leave for H.K. once again makes little sense, beyond its providing an excuse for “Anak’s” fourth hysterical-sobbing-at-the-airport sequence. That’s too bad, since early reels observe parent-child relationships with considerable delicacy. Quintos’ fluid handling of potentially claustrophobic, mawkish material underplays script’s more obvious gambits until they overwhelm pic. Veteran local star Santos is in fine form, while Barretto lends impressive shading to what might have been a stock sexy “bad girl” role. Tech package is polished.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine March 19 2001 (READ MORE)

“The Philippine president praises the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as hero. This is nothing more than delusive. The reality of OFWs is almost slavery exporting. In this film, Josie, the mother, was locked in the house while her master and his family were on long vacation. That was why she could not attend her husband’s funeral! Total remittance from the OFWs, who send most of their earnings from such humiliating work, amounts nearly US$ 10B annually. This film raises a serious issue in Philippine society, however, I think most of Philippine politicians may not even recognize how desperate a country which relies on exporting their people for such slavery jobs. They leave their family because they love family. Mother leaves her children whom she wants to embrace always, and works for them sacrificing everything. Children feel they are abandoned by their mother even they know their daily life is supported by her remittance. Mother’s love ends up with broken relationship. What a tragedy! The life of the family looks not bad in Philippine standard. In fact their house is large enough even in Japanese standard. However, their father, who looks a good man, do not have stable job, if not minimal income which is hard to afford their life. In fact, even working abroad as a maid is a kind of status. I don’t understand why the mother does not cancel going to Hong Kong and choose yet another life, to live with her family with less income, after reconciliation with her daughter. Unless Filipinos decide to quit working overseas for little money, I think this country would not become better. By the way, this is the first film I saw Vilma Santos. Her performance is superb. Few actresses can act both comical and serious sides of the same character” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“There are drawbacks in Anak, small aspects that could be left out or be more emphasized; but forget that petty cash because…Just as I had forgotten the reason for making movies, that not all movies are justified merely as a moneymaking device where profit, spin off products and the inclusion of at least one major Hollywood movie star are dominant ingredients in the narrative formula; just as I had misplaced the argument for film production itself, Anak puts it all right again. Quintos peels away every superfluous non-significant element and leaves us with a nucleus so pure, so strong and so universally true that it touches all of us. Separation from loved ones, sacrifices and the complexity of family relations are key components of the narrative that, propelled by brilliant acting, drives this highly realistic and touching story forward. And realism and emotions are clues to what makes Anak such a gripping tale. In other, more conventional, ‘touching’ films I often feel left of

“I absolutely loved this film! At first, I was a bit skeptic, but man….what great acting!! It seemed so real…not far from reality. Claudine did a great job as the snot nose brat of a daughter and Vilma was awesome as the loving, but misunderstood mother. It’s a great movie…go rent it!” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“Where to begin? Anak (or ‘The Child’ as it is known in the West) is an absolutely amazing movie, a movie so powerful that it deserves to be watched by everyone. The Story is set around Josie and her family, Many years ago – Josie had to leave her family and become a domestic over-seas so she that she could provide money to support her family, when Josies husband dies, Josie returns to her family to take over her job as mother, but when she returns, her family is anything but loving and welcoming. The acting in this movie is magnificent, I had never heard of Vilma Santos until I watched Anak, however after seeing it I had to rent out some of her other movies, the emotion shown by Vilma, and the other actors is amazing and at times, you really can find yourself believing that this family is real. There were times in the movie I laughed, times I cried, but I loved every second of it, and it blows almost every Hollywood movie out of the water. Anak just goes to show that a movie does not need to have sex, drugs & violence, and also not be a Children’s movie to be excellent and a must-see for the entire family.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Mas mahusay para sa amin ang pagkakaganap ni Vilma Santos sa “Anak” kaysa sa “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?”. Hindi malayong humakot na naman siya ng award rito…But the film still belongs to Vilma, who goes through an entire spectrum of varied emotions as Josie, mula sa katuwaan at excitement niya sa pagbabalik sa Pilipinas (natural na natural ‘yung pagiging aligaga niya habang namamahagi ng pasalubong sa mga anak niya), ang disappointment niya nang matanto niyang hindi na niya kilala ang mga batang binalikan niya, hanggang sa finally ay sumambulat siya sa tagpong pinagsasampal na rin niya si Claudine at pinalalayas. It’s a bravura sequence and the performance is magnificent…” – Mario E. Bautista (READ MORE)

“…Actually, this film does not only tug at your heartstrings. It also tries to escape every nerve ending in your body. But despite its excesses, “Anak” is still a quality movie. It is a very well-made commercial film with a heart. This movie has three things going for it: a relevant subject matter , its thorough research and the wonderful performance of Vilma Santos. In this film, Vilma goes through a wide range of emotions from a spoiler of a mother to one who has had it with her ingrate of a daughter – and from a fun-loving barkada (to fellow domestic helpers Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache) who knows how to appreciate the simple joys of life to that of a breadwinner willing to slave it out for the sake of her children. This may not be a classic Vilma Santos performance in the tradition of “Sister Stella L”, “Relasyon”, and “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?”, but it is definitely an inspired one. In fact, no other actress could have pulled it off the way she did – marvelously, if I may say…” – Butch Francisco, People’s Journal May 26 2000 (READ MORE)

“..Vilma, as expected, turns in another “winning” performance (far better than her “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?” acting) while Claudine is a big revelation as the rebellious daughter, so hateful (especially when she’s answering back at her mother) that when, in the final confrontation scene, Vilma slaps her and throws clothes at her and, okay, okay, “Lumayas ka sa bahay kung ayaw mo akong makita,” the crying audience erupted into an approving applause…” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Philippine Star May 09 2000 (READ MORE)

f with an awkward, almost embarrassed, feeling of having been tricked to tears by elementary storytelling mechanisms. But the feeling of a natural, almost improvised acting in Anak, conveys everyday life as well as the intense moments with an exceptional credibility which makes the overall narrative so strong it should leave its audience feeling that this is one of the primary reasons for storytelling.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Ang international fame, bilang Best Actress, ay nakamit ni Vilma in 1999, when her Star Cinema headliner Bata … Bata … Paano Ka Ginawa? – directed by Chito Rono – was entered as competition entry sa Brussels Film Festival. Released in 1998, Bata won for Vilma the Best Actress honors at the Star Awards, FAP and Gawad Urian, as well as the Best Performance award from the YCC-Film Desk. Dahil nahalal na alkalde ng Lipa City sa Batangas si Vilma Santos-Recto (she married then Batangas Congressman, now Senator Rafael ‘Ralph” Recto in December 1992), naging mas madalang ang paggawa niya ng pelikula. Pero hindi pa rin magmimintis si Vilma na manalo ng acting trophy, kapag din lang may panlabang pelikula, as in 2000 when she did Star Cineman’s Anak by Rory Quintos. Nanalo siyang Best Actress sa Star Awards…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“…Sa umpisa pa lang ng pelikula, kinurot na ang puso ko. Damang dama mo ang pagkasabik ni Josie na muling makita’t makapiling ang mga anak, ang pagtataka’t hindi ipinahalatang pagdaramdam ng hindi siya kilala ng mismong bunsong anak. Natural na natural ang dating ng acting ni ate Vi sa eksenang hindi siya magkandaugaga sa pag-asikaso ng mga bisita sa kanyang welcome party pati na rin sa pagmumudmod niya ng mga pasalubong. Mararamdaman mo ang pagmamahal na ipinapakita niya sa mga anak bilang pagpupuno sa kanyang mga pagkukulang noong mga panahon na wala siya sa piling nila, kasama na ang pagtitiis at pagwawalang bahala sa kabastusan ng panganay na si Claudine na sa totoo lang ay napakahusay din. Nakiiyak at nakidalamhati ako kay Josie sa bawat sakit at hapdi ng kalooban na kanyang nadarama. Umabot sa sukdulan ang pagkahabag ko kay Josie at matinding galit naman ang nadama ko kay Claudine sa paglapastangan sa kanyang ina. Halos nadurog ang puso ko ng isa-isahin na ni Josie ang mga paghihirap at pagtitiis na kanyang pinagdaanan. Mahirap nga ba sa mga anak ang intindihin kung bakit kinakailangan lumayo ang isang magulang lalo pa’t ang ina sa kanyang mga mahal sa buhay para sa kapakanan ng pamilya? Maaaring oo, at maaaring hindi. Bagamat kailangan ng mga anak ng kalinga at gabay ng kanilang magulang sa kanilang paglaki, but the choice is theirs. They do and they can understand but the problem arises when a child refuses to understand the situation. Marahil dahil sa ako ay isang Overseas Filipino Worker kung kaya, kaya kong makarelate sa pelikula, but it doesn’t really matter you’re an OFW or not. Anak is a picture for everyone and it has successfully conveyed the importance of family being the basic unit of our society. In general, Anak is a well acted movie sa pangunguna ni Ms. Vilma Santos. No other actress can give justice to the role of Josie but Vilma herself, and that is setting aside my being a solid Vilmanian, at kahit pa sabihin na para akong sirang plaka…” – Eddie Lozano (READ MORE)

“…DID you know that as early as the ’80s, nagsusulat na ang award-winning scriptwriter na si Ricky Lee tungkol sa plight ng ating mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers)? He started with “Miss X”, filmed in Amsterdam in The Netherlands with now Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos in the title role. For an entire month, namalagi sa Amsterdam si Ricky kasama ang cast and crew ng pelikula. Naging simula ang Miss X ng ilang collaboration sa pagitan nila ng equally award-winning director na si Gil Portes. Ang next movie together nila ni direk Gil was “Carnival In Rio”, which was filmed naman in Rio de Janeiro. Alma Moreno, who was at the height of her popularity as a bold star then, played the lead role. Then came “’Merika”, na isinapelikula naman sa New Jersey and New York with Nora Aunor playing the lead role. “Because of that movie,” ani Ricky, “I was able to explore New York, the city of my dream. After my travels to all these places, I wrote (direk) Gil a letter, thanking him for the rare chance he gave na marating ang mga lugar na ito na ’di ko Inakalang mararating ko,” pahayag ni Ricky. For Anak, which was filmed in Hong Kong, Ricky had the chance na makatrabaho muli si Vilma sa ibang bansa muli. This time, na-renew, wika nga, ang kanilang bonding. Ricky remembered that because Anak was a blockbuster, binigyan ng Star Cinema ng malaking bonus si Ate Vi. Nagulat daw siya when one day, he received a P40,000 check from the actress. Contribution daw ang pera ni Ate Vi sa isinagawa niyang workshop for aspiring scriptwriters….” – Nel A, The People’s Tonight, Aug 31 2005 (READ MORE)

“…Damangdama namin ang panonood,naluluha-luha na kami sa mga eksenang napapanood.Grabeng lines, nanggagaling sa puso kaya tumatagos sa puso. Pagdating sa pagliltanya ni Ate Vi nang tuhog na tuhog, yung makapanindig-balahibong linyang marami siyang pinalampas na pagkalam ng sikmura para lang maipadala niya ang pambili sa kanyang mga anak.Ibang klase. Masikip sa dibdib, tahimik kang luluha dahil sapul na sapul ka ng kanyang pagganap. Sa tunay na buhay nga nama’y mas masakit at nakakakuha ng simpatiya ang paimpit na pag-iyak, at yun si Josie na ginagampanan ni buong ningning ni Ate Vi. Walang pakialam ang aktres sa magiging hitsura niya sa telon. Sinunod ni Ate Vi ang kagustuhan ng direktor.Ginawa niya ang hinihingi ng papel na maging deglamorize para mas maging makatotohanan ang kanyang pagbibigay buhay. Sa kanyang pag-iyak ay masisilip mo ang nagagait din niyang mga ugat sa leeg at kamay niya. Sa eksenang talagang sinusumbatan na niya si Claudine, she still amazes us on how she delivers the lines with varying degree of intensity na naaayon sa bawat bitiwang salita. Alam namin at ng lahat kung gaano kahusay ang isang Vilma Santos, pero sa pelikulang ito ay ipinakita niya, she’s not just an instinctive actress,she’s soooo brilliant. Maririnig mo ang kaliwa’t kanang singhutan at sipunan ng mga katabi ko sa upuan.Hindi ko sila pinapansin dahil tahimik din akong nagpapahid ng luha para hindi mahalata. Bakit sila lang ba ang marunong umiyak? Remarkable din ang akting na ipinakita ni Claudine…Anak grossed Php 14 Million on its opening day.Umabot ng Php 200 Million na nationwide box-office take,ranking number 2 sa box-office champion of all times…” – Willie Fernandez (READ MORE)

“…If this movie is to be judged by the amount of tears shed by various actors during the performance and the amount of tears which are expected to be shed by the audience, then I think this film can be rated in the five gallons category rather than that of the five stars. Vilma Santos, as expected, effectively portrayed a role of a mother trying to reach out to her children who at first sees her as a stranger. The efforts and the hardships she acted relate the whole theme of the film. Claudine Barretto, on the other hand, though equipped with natural acting prowess, was not that believable and was disgusting at some moments. In particular, I would like to single out the performance of Baron Geisler. He didn’t have a whole lot lines in the movie but the impact of his facial expressions and body language were very powerful. As what said a while ago, this film was an inspired picture from Aguilar’s “Anak.” Every single line of the song pertains to the story of Josie and her children. The happiness and sacrifices of parents when their child is born were both seen as Josie showed the same feeling for her children upon seeing them as well as the sufferings she experienced in Hong Kong in order to give her family enough money for living. The line “Nagdaan pa ang mga araw at ang landas mo’y naligaw, ikaw ay nalulong sa masamng bisyo,” was also illustrated as Carla gets involve in men, sex and drugs and showing her mother her hatred for her. But all stories that end well, Carla repented and asked for forgiveness and vice-versa. This scene was literally the portrayal of the line “At and iyong mata’y biglang lumuha ng ‘di mo napapansin. Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali…” – Rodel Guerrero(READ MORE)

“…Other important movies of the year 2000:…”Anak” (Star Cinema). The year’s most successful move sometimes leans toward the mawkish, the result perhaps of its director’s protracted work on TV where the success of productions is determined by how well they can populate an episode with bathos and melodrama the better to maintain the ratings and keep the advertisers coming. But in honest look at the domestic wages of migrant labor and the utterly moving performances of Vilma Santos and Baron Geisler, it is a signigicant movie…” – Lito Zulueta, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 01, 2001 (READ MORE)

“…You don’t have to be an overseas Filipino worker, or be related to one, to be moved by “Anak,” the latest Star Cinema production which is, fittingly enough, billed as its Mother’s Day offering. The movie was conceived and marketed as Star Cinema’s tribute to overseas workers. But anyone who is or has even been a parent, will find many echoes of their own experiences in “Anak.” It is this emotional resonance with the universal tug of war between parent and child that, I think, allows “Anak” to transcent its focus on the OFW’s and appeal to wider, general audience. And yet, there was something very right, very fitting, in the decision to hold “Anak’s” world premiere in Hong Kong, among the community of domestic workers whose ‘story” is told in the movie. The screening was peppered with moment of laughter and gasps of recognition. And by own reckoning, just 15 minutes into the movie, as the joyous homecoming of returning Hong Kong DH Josie, played by Vilma Santos, is shadowed by her re-entry problems, the tears start flowing. By the time Josie finally confronts her rebellious daughter played by Claudine Barretto, the sniffles and sobs that punctuated the quiet of the Cine Metro Theater had grown into a teary crescendo. It was, indeed, cathartic. And if I, a journalist and working mother who had left her family behind for a mere weekend, was assuaged by pangs of guilt and regret, how could it not resonate in the most powerful way with the proud and hardworking Pinays of Hong Kong?…Perhaps this is something we need to realize here, especially among the bleeding hearts and do gooders crying out for government to “do something” about the phenomenon of migrant labor. The struggle to secure the rights of overseas workers has shifted to the OFW’s themselves. Only when they assert themselves as a political force can they win respect and power and thereby determine and direct their own fate and welfare.

Critical to this development are movies like “Anak,” that manage to move beyond sterotypes to paint both the good and bad side of migration, demonstrating the rewards and growth attendant to working abroad, even if “only” as a domestic, as well as the loneliness that assails everyone, or the abuse and exploitation that befall some. “Anak” is particularlay effective in that it strides for balance and realism. Scriptwriters Ricky Lee and Raymond Lee (no relations) told of basing and validating the situation in the movie on the real life experiences of Filipina domestics in Hong Kong, though much of the film takes place here. Director Rory Quintos is to be commended for the light and unobtusive tough she gives to what could be melodramatic material. The ensemble acting is also remarkable, with Claudine Barretto giving a fairly impressive turn as the troubled and self-destructive daughter, and Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache delightful as the earthy DH friends of the beleaguered Josie. Still, this is one movie that truly belongs to Vilma Santos, who is even more affecting and effective here than in “Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa?” for which she harvested many awards. As Josie, she is feisty and bubbly, steely and sof-hearted, the combination of grit and goodness that is the bedrock of every Pinay mother’s heart. Before the screening, she told the audience that after making the movie, she was more than ever determined to pursue a career in government to better help the OFWs. But watching her as Josie, I thought, it is not as a governement official that an actor like Vilma best helps people. it’s precisely as an actor, giving life to women like Josie and “standing up for the character,” that Vilma and artists like her help us understand people and take them into our hearts.” – Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 10, 2000 (READ MORE)

Love-Hate drama between “martyr” mother and “rebel” daughter – Star Cinema should be commended for deciding to make a film about a Filipino overseas contract worker who periodically leaves her family to ears much-needed dollars abroad. “Anak: is a bittersweet account of a mother’s dilemma: the money she brings in assures her children’s physical well-being, but her absence during their crucial growing years leaves them with a shaky foundation that takes its terrible toll on them, asw well as on her, when she finally decides to come home. Rory B. Quintos’ films hits intense emotional highs, especially in scene involving its veteran lead player, Vilma Santos, who feels her role so much that she comes across as a symbol of all mothers torn between their love for their children, and their need to earn money by working abroad to give their children a better life. Her pain is exarcerbated when they show their resentment over her long absences, as though she didn’t suffer from the separation as much as or even more than they. And everything comes to a head when eldest child (Claudine Battetto) flaunts her wayward life and vices in her mother’s face, to hurt her as much as she feels she has been hurt by her “uncaring” parent.

In addition, the film gains in significance by touching on some less personal issues related to the huge problems of our overseas contract workers and the families they leave behind: terrible working conditions, psyhological trauma, low self-image, the wearing down of traditional values, etc. Unfortunately, the production’s decision to focus on the mother-daughter conflict deprives the movie of enough time to dramatize these issues in an insightful way. Thus, the interesting characters played by Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache, who are cast as Vilma’s worker-friends, are glossed over and mainly used for “color” and as shoulders to cry on. This is a pity, because they too have compelling, instructive stories to tell, which could have lent greater texture and substance to the film’s handling of the complex OCW syndrome. Instead, the movie keeps harping on the love-hate drama between “martyr” mother and “rebel” daughter, with Claudine’s character sinking deeper into her pit of anger and recrimination. All too soon, the pattern becomes tedious, and we keep hoping that the movie discovers other, more productive dramatic and thematic avenues to explore. To make things worse, Claudine acts her guts out in her “hurt and angry” scenes, but she can’t seem to rise to the thespic occassion.

This may be because her character’s acts of rebelliosness are presented in too strident a fashion, making it difficult for the young actress to be truly sensitive to her character’s core of genuine pain. It’s also possible that Claudine has been acting too much of late, what with her daily TV soaps that require her to play triplets, so she has prescious little that’s fresh and real to give to her role in this film. Whatever the reason, she falls short of the mark, particularly in her demanding confrontation scenes with Vilma. For her part, the veteran actress is given major dramatic challenges in this movie, and she meets them with her intensity and commitment. More, she embraces them, pushing her scenes “beyond acting,” into emotional reality that is truly moving. If only her young costar had been as insightful, sensitive and giving… So, we thank Star Cinema for the good things in “Anak,” but we regret its deficiencies, which not even a Vilma Santos can fully compensate for. More films on our OCW’s are needed to truly do justice to their immense problems, and to their quiet heroism for love ones and coutry. – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 14, 2000 (READ MORE)

Ensemble Acting – Besides Vilma Santos and Claudine Barretto as the clashing mother and daughter in Star Cinema’s currently-showing smash-hit drama ”Anak,” there are other actors in the Mother’s Day offering who shine in their own rights with sterling performances. There’s Cherry Pie Picache as Vilma’s fellow domestic helper in Hong Kong, acting her part with natural ease and spontaneity. And Amy Austria, also a domestic helper, whose character is a contrast to those of Vilma’s and Cherry Pie’s. Or Baron Geisler who’s a revelation as Vilma’s teenage son gone astray. Or newcomer Sheila Mae Alvero as Vilma’s youngest child rendered a stranger to her own mother by the mother’s long absence while working in Hong Kong. Directed by Rory B. Quintos from a screenplay by Ricky Lee and Raymond Lee, “Anak” is the best example of ensemble acting where all the performers seem to move to the same tune, as if in a symphony. Star Circle member Leandro Muñoz also gives a credible performance as the guy who doesn’t take advantage of the wayward Claudine, instead convin-cing Vilma of his good intentions toward her daughter. Joel Torre, as the three children’s dead father, appearing in poignant flashbacks, comes on as alive as the “live” performers are, making us believe how weak a father he is in the choice sequences he appears in. Also turning in fine performances no matter how brief their roles are the supporting actors and actresses. “Anak” is currently breaking box-office records. No doubt the big crowds that continue to flock to the theaters where it’s showing are attracted by its very timely story acted out with impressive beauty and with such impact by the movie’s cast which should be gathered again in a “reunion” vehicle, perhaps with Quintos again as director. – Sol Jose Vanzi, Manila Bulletin, May 16, 2000 (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: PAANO BA ANG MANGARAP

The Plot: “Despite their different social backgrounds, Lisa (Vilma Santos) and Benny (Jay Ilagan) have found their match in each other. Unfortunately, Benny dies before they could marry, and Lisa is left with no choice but to seek the help of Benny’s parents. But their arrogance is as lofty as their fortune, and to them, Lisa is nothing but an opportunist. Their only concern is their late son’s unborn child that Lisa is carrying in her womb. The only person who treats Liza with kindness is Eric (Christopher de Leon), Benny’s brother, who has secretly fallen in love with her…” – Kabayan (READ MORE)

“Despite their different social backgrounds, Lissa and Benny have found their match in each other. Unfortunately, Benny dies before they could marry, and Lissa is left with no choice but to seek the help of Benny’s parents. But their arrogance is as lofty as their fortune, and to them, Lissa is nothing but an opportunist. Their only concern is their late son’s unborn child that Lissa is carrying in her womb. The only person who treats Lissa with kindness is Eric, Benny’s brother, who has secretly fallen in love with her, Eric even made a promise to Benny that he would find Lissa & take good care of her, a promise that Eric vowed he will never break.” – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “Paano ba ang mangarap?” rates high for its slickness and production gloss, something that its producers, Viva Films, shouldn’t hope would last them more than two seasons.

Eddie Garcia is a good director. He stages his scenes well, with a minimum of fuss and a modicum of winning faith in narrative primacy. Viva’s movies are well-structured, well-paced, and at their best show how the cosmopolitan Filipino behaves under romantic stress. But if you get past that level and dig into substance, you encounter that self-same compost pit wherein all the biodegradable scraps of melodrama you can find southeast of your favorite mother’s kitchen have been thrown.

Such is the case, to a most lamentable extreme, with Paano Ba ang Mangarap? It’s well-acted, well-done, tastefully correct in elementary mode. But it is strictly local comics fare, this well-wrought turn of circumstantial twist and escalating conflicts which all spell high drama. Viva makes films that are at best our answer to Hollywoodian slick, the stuff of which The Other Side of Midnight and Imitation of Life are prime generational examples. The Barbra Cartlands and Harold Robbinses turned celluloid; Mills and Boon on the big screen.

Here you have two fine actors, Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos, waxing once again with their special chemistry. Boyet is so good he can, by merely varying his inflection, go through a simple line like “Tama na..” three times and prove positively sensitive and believable each time. Subtlety of feeling is shared equally well by Vilma Santos. They are both aware of the value of underplaying their emotional scenes, so much so that in any confrontation with other thespians who play their role to the hilt, these two, Boyet and Vilma, come out on top through the simple process of undercutting.

Vic Silayan and Perla Bautista are equally good in Paano Ba ang Mangarap?, but it is Moody Diaz who wins us over by applying a different tack in her “mayordoma” role, something that is usually played for laughs and other such effects by less gifted, or less imaginative, performers. Armida Siguion-Reyna is hampered by her termagant mother-in-law role, the catch-all character of cruelty spawned by all the soap opera dramas of Philippine comics and radio serials. And she plays this thoroughly unbelievable character, typecast as she already is, much to the hilt. That fantasy scene where she makes out like a satanic figure, though well-shot by Romy Vitug, is quite embarrassing for a picture like this, except of course we know that it is based on a comics serial where such fictive excesses may appear.

Here is where this otherwise finely-crafted film suffers. Viva knew it had to be faithful to the comics serial, so in effect opted for the surefire commercial draw at the expense of a truly artistic, credible film. I’m not saying that a character like Mrs. Monteverde does not, or cannot, exist. Perhaps one in a million. Filipino mothers can be as overbearing, prejudiced, unfeeling, and downright cruel. But to have a situation where an improbable character like her meets up with other improbable characters like the one Vilma and Christopher play, is stacking up the cards too much on the side of atrocious melodrama.

Vilma is the martyr type who would subject herself to indignities just so her coming child can have a name and possibly better upbringing. Boyet is the unloved son who would ditch his sophisticated girlfriend (Amy Austria, who is still uncomfortable in such role, so she doesn’t fare too well here) for this martyr-type who’s been impregnated by his brother. Now, any of these characters may exist, if by a long chance. But to have them all together living under the same roof is stretching the bounds of possibility much too much.

Furthermore, it could have been a better ending had the Viva bosses decided to stop at that scene where Vilma finds herself left alone on Christmas in the rich surroundings she has always dreamt of. Now only the household help can give her token solace by way of a collective gift. It is a poignant scene, stylistically done to proper effect with the usual Viva-film theme wafting through in support of silent montage. It could have been a good open ending, with overtones of irony laying themselves squarely on Vilma’s character. But no, of course one can’t disappoint the followers of the original comics serial. So the story goes on through further typical maneuverings until we’re given at least a semblance of a happy ending. A missed chance, I say. – Alfred A. Yuson, Philippines Daily Inquirer July 17 1983 (READ MORE)

“A true blooded Vilmanian will not forget the time when a teaser (a very brief trailer) was shown to the theatres in the summer of 1991. It was Viva films’ “Paano Ba Ang Mangarap?” Another box office hit from Vilma Santos and Christopher DeLeon. The teaser (almost worth the whole movie ticket) was the scene where Lisa, played by Vilma discovered that her son (to Eric’s brother , Jay Ilagan) was gone courtesy of her evil rich mother-in-law (Armida Sigueon Reyna). Here’s the lines and the explosive acting of the Queen. The scene: After running around looking for the baby in all the rooms in second floor of of this huge mansion, Lisa confronted Eric who were stunned to find Lisa’s hysterics. Lisa: “Dinaya n’yo ako! Saan n’yo dinala ang anak ko?!!!” Eric: “Hindi ko alam!” Lisa: “Hindi mo alam…Sinungaling!” Eric: “Lisa, makinig ka muna” Lisa: “Kasabwat ka ng ina mo! Alam ko matagal n’yo nang plano ito!” Eric: “Ano bang pinagsasabi mo?” Lisa: “Dinaya n’yo ako! Mga Traydor Kayo! Traydor kayong lahat!” Eric: “Lisa, huminahon ka baka mapaano ang bata!” Lisa: “Wala akong pakialam! Ibalik mo sa akin si Jun Jun! Ibalik mo sa akin ang anak ko! Ibalik mo sa akin si Jun Jun! Ibalik mo sa akin! AHHHH! (mahuhulog sa hagdanan)” Just this scene alone, Vilma should be rewarded that year’s best actress award! Bravo!” – RV (READ MORE)

“Dahil Father’s Day ngayon, nais nating bigyan ng magandang tribute ang nakilala nang ama ng maraming­ artista ng iba’t ibang henerasyon na si Eddie Garcia. Hindi lang mahusay na bida at kontrabida si Eddie kundi mahusay rin siya bilang isang film director. Taong 1961 nang idirek ni Eddie ang kanyang unang pelikula titled “Karugtong Ng Kahapon” kunsaan bida sina Mario Montenegro, Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo at Marlene Dauden. Higit na 36 movies pa ang dinirek ni Eddie na iba-iba ang tema…Paano Ba Ang Mangarap? (1983), Tungkol ito kay Lisa (Vilma Santos) na nabuntis ni Benny (Jay llagan) pero noong mamatay ito sa isang aksidente, ang kapatid nitong si Eric (Christopher de Leon) ang nagpakasal kay Lisa para mabigyan ng pangalan ang bata. Ginawa niya ito kahit na may girlfriend siya na si Maya (Amy Austria). Hindi pabor sa simula pa lang ang ina nila Benny at Eric na si Senyora Francia (Armida Siguion-Reyna) at gumawa ito ng paraan para mailayo kay Lisa ang anak nitong si Jun-Jun. Nanalo ito ng limang FAMAS Awards: Best Picture, Best Story, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography at Best Theme Song…” – Ruel Mendoza, Abante, 15 June 2019 (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: PAHIRAM NG ISANG UMAGA


The Plot: Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga revolves around Juliet (Vilma Santos), who finds herself struggling against an ever-escalating series of problems. A determined single parent, she manages to raise a child while remaining successful in her career as an advertising executive. Everything in her life seems to go well until she is diagnosed with a terminal disease. For her son’s sake, and without revealing her condition, she is forced to resolve her most important life relations: rekindling first her connections with her parents, and then with the very man who fathered her son. In the twilight of her life, she meets and falls in love with a beleaguered artist, Ariel (Eric Quizon), who is constantly depressed and perpetually contemplating suicide. She slowly loses her health but unknowingly reawakens Ariel desire to live, and they both engage in a meaningful affair – one that makes each day they live through together more meaningful than the last. – Regal Films

The Reviews: Weepies are a common movie fare in the Philippines, along with extremely violent action thrillers and trite youth comedies. It is, therefore, a cause for cheer when a filmmaker tries to elevate the very common genre of the melodrama into a rich and intellectually rewarding film experience, such as director Ishmael Bernal has done with his Pahiram ng Isang Umaga. Director Ishmael Bernal has seen in the material an opportunity to put substance to what has often been denigrated as the unthinking man’s entertainment, and to a considerable degree, his attempt has been a success. Pahiram is both effective as a tearjerker and meaningful as a depiction of people in crisis. Using a traditional element of the genre, the theme of death, Bernal and writer Jose Javier Reyes probe into the life of a woman who has been told that the end is near. Juliet (Vilma Santos, one of the two reigning Philippine female superstars for the past two decades now) is told that she has eight or maybe seven months to live. As a progressive advertising creative director who has been promoted (rather late) as vice president of her company, she has the means to attend to the less mundane demands of life, examine what may have been an unexamined life, and make the most of the limited time left. In all these, Bernal explores the emotional and psychological condition of the person who lives on borrowed time. Naturally visible here are the many symbols not only of death but also of life to serve as some kind of counterpoint or irony. Sometimes, they blend with each other, and at other times, they contradict.

From the peasants’ ritualistic rice planting to the backyard harvesting of sun-dried patola cultivated as life-giving seedlings, the evidence of life renewing itself could hardly be ignored. Then there are the more obvious symbols of fire, daybreak and persistent rains (the latter of which are used to reinforce the gloomier mood at the second half of the movie, and also suggest the rains’ refreshing and replenishing results). But the most eloquent symbol here of life is the process of artistic creation, personified – again paradoxically – by the expressionist painter Ariel who befriends and then is smitten by Juliet. There are ironies here. The painter creates life through his art, but at the same time, psychologically tormented, he wants to end his own life. Such a restless, free soul, grappling with the complexities of life, he has a whole life ahead of him, his artistic world limited only by his imagination, and yet he wants to quit. In contrast, Juliet who is dying, wants to live. Here is a woman who saves a man’s life (the artist’s) but cannot save her own. The idea of art as life or art vs. life is examined at length. Asked by the boy why he has to put on canvas the seascape, the artist makes the clarification that he is not copying the scenery. Ostensibly, he is recreating it on a different plane, art being something else, with a life of its own. This is suggested by the portrait the artist is making of Juliet. The model may soon die, as she will, but the portrait will live on. Life may indeed be short, an idea which used to be stated directly in previous Bernal movies, but art endures. It is the one thing in this world which is eternal. The briefness of life is suggested with the graphic sight of wet sand dripping down from the hand.

Bernal and Reyes go farther by including a scene in which the artist explains the origins of art. By the fireside at the beach, and watching the flame cast a glow on them, he notes that prehistoric men “discovered” art when they made outlines of shadows on the caves. Those artworks, though crude and primitive, still exist. Implicitly, Juliet’s death, no matter how saddening, is not going to be the end. Philosophical musings like these are not standard soap opera fare, and may alienate a lot of ordinary moviegoers (even the more cerebral ones who cannot accept the conventions of the soap opera genre). Woven unobtrusively into the plot, however, they add texture and enrich the drama. Juliet in a way will continue to live – in that portrait, in her young son who will survive her and hopefully continue her legacy whatever it may be, and in her good deeds. In the last scene, the imagery and symbolisms of life and death abound. Juliet dies at the break of dawn, the start of a new day (and life), but not without first making her last sentimental paean to life. Supported by the artist, her eyesight having failed completely and with the waves caressing their feet, the weak and dying cancer victim remarks how beautiful life is.

True enough, this dying scene set on a beach, with the woman in white, dainty night gown, is one of the most exquisite, breathtaking moments in Philippine movies. But before giving us this grand, highly emotional death scene, the director has gradually introduced various motifs of death, from the artist’s pet black bird which at one point he cruelly squeezes in his hand, to the funeral rituals for Juliet’s father. This is a striking part of the movie, Juliet watching intently as morticians work on her father’s remains, as everyone weeps when the coffin is lowered to its final resting place, and during the ritualistic “pasiyam,” the nine-day novena for the dead. It’s as though Juliet can see herself in her father’s lifeless body while mourners mill around it. The attempts to raise the level of the melodrama and present insights on life and death provide the movie its greatest strength – and wide appeal. How strangely ironic that a movie dealing with death could have so much life- – Mario A. Hernando, “A Look at Death and the Affirmation of Life,” Malaya, 5 March 1989

“…In Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga, Ishmael Bernal’s very competent handling of the material, coupled with Santos’ intelligent portrayal of Juliet, a terminally ill cancer victim, saved the film from becoming a glorified soap opera…” – Jojo Devera, Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy 03 Nov 2009

“…A series of unfortunate events seemed to hound Nora’s career up to this point. October 1, 1989 was to be the last airing date of the 22-year-old musical-variety show Superstar on RPN 9. A month later, it was revived on IBC 13 with a new title, The Legend … Superstar, but this was short-lived lasting only up to early 1990. Naging mas masuwerte si Vilma Santos sa hinu-host na Vilma! on GMA 7, which started in 1981 as VIP (Vilma in Person) ng lumang BBC 2 (naibalik sa Lopez owners ang ABS-CBN after the EDSA Revolution). Nagbida si Vilma sa isa sa mga pinakaimportanteng pelikula ng Dekada ‘80: Regal Films’ Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (by Ishmael Bernal), na sinimulan in 1988 at ipinalabas in early 1989. In December 1989, Vilma headlined a period romance-drama (Viva Films’ Imortal, megged by Eddie Garcia) at nanalo sila ng kaparehang si Christopher de Leon ng acting plums sa MMFF. Sa awardings for that year, si Vilma ang nanalong Best Actress sa Star Awards (for Pahiram), her first form the Philippine Movie Press Club. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” nasabi ni Vilma as she accepted her trophy. Later, it was Nora’s turn to get a Best Actress trophy for the first time from the Film Academy of the Philippines, for Elwood Perez’s three-year-in-the-making Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” sabi rin niya in her acceptance speech. Na-elevate si Vilma sa FAMAS Hall of Fame, for having bagged five Best Actress statuettes: Dama de Noche, Pakawalan Mo Ako, Relasyon, Tagos ng Dugo, and Elwood Perez’s Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos. Nora won her fourth Best Actress plum sa FAMAS, also for Bilangin. Walang itulak-kabigin sa dalawa, kaya marapat lang na mag-tie sila for Best Actress, as in the 1990 Gawad Urian, na ‘pantay na parangal ”ang ipinagkaloob ng Manunuri kina Nora (for Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit) at Vilma (for Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga)…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“…Vi goes to the kitchen to prepare breakfast at habang nagbabati siya ng itlog, doon pa lang ipinakitang una siyang nag-breakdown. And this is shown nang nakatalikod siya sa camera. No overly ornate kind of emoting na akting na akting ang dating. Pero damang-dama mo pa rin…she becomes the part (lalo na sa eksena nila ni Gabby Concepcion sa simbahan na binalikan nila kung paano sila nagkasira), and if you notice that she is good, well, salamat po…Sa second viewing ng movie namin lalong napansin ang subtle nuances ng performance ni Vi, up to her death scene which confirms our supposition that the movie is not really so much about death than a celebration of life..’yan ang opinion namin…” – Mario Bautista, People Journal 1989 (READ MORE)

“…The only thing I can say about this film is that of its performances – from Vilma Santos (as the woman who spends her last days on earth looking for love) and Eric Quizon (as the ill painter who falls in love with Santos). This film is best fitted for a made-for-TV slot, considering its premise (which may attract mothers). Passable…” – Oscar 99, IMDB web site, September 13, 1999, Manila,Philippines (READ MORE)

“…The last time Bernal and Santos collaborated was in 1989. Santos, still active with her musical variety television show, did three films, all were commercial success. “Imortal” directed by Eddie Garcia was a local festival entry that earned Santos another local festival best actress. “Rizal Alih, Zamboanga Massacre” was directed by Carlo J Caparas. And “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga” directed by Bernal. The film earned Santos the local critics best actress and Bernal the best director. Vilma her very first Star best actress, considered the Golden Globe local equivalent at that time. Pahiram also received nominations for best actress for Vilma and best director for Ishmael both from FAP, now the local equivalent of OSCAR…Bernal gave Vilma Santos her first grandslam best actress awards and consecutive Gawad Urian best actress (1982 and 1983). Their first film together was Inspiration (1972) and last was Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (1989).” – RV (READ MORE)

“…Eric’s role in “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga” is the manic-depressive love of Vilma Santos. He was contrapuntal to Vilma’s existence who wanted to prolong her life while he wanted to end his. But the Method Acting-oriented scribes at teh Philippine Movie Pres Club saw in Eric the mere physicality in his attack of the role. No anxiety in the eyes; all overt body movements to the point of the Nora Aunor anxiety-laden eyes. Eric rationalizes; “That was exactly how I was supposed to attack my role according to Direk Ishmael Bernal – overacting at physical level lang talaga. Wala nang pa-anxiety-anxiety pa. All the other major characters in “Pahiram…” were already making lupasay na with heavy emotions. From Vilma to Zsa Zsa Padilla to Vicky Suba to Gabby Concepcion – silang lahat emotionally loaded na. If I do the same, boring di ba? Ayaw ni Direk Bernal na pa-heavy emotion approach for my role. But you know my homework for that role was to watch several English sad movies on tapes and was told to cry with the characers if I wanted to or feel like crying. I felt so stupid talaga, but that exercise paid off I tell you.” If you have watched “Pahiram…,” the scene where Eric has to strangle a Myna bird was such a memorable highlight. Eric recalls; “I had to do an improvisation for that scene. Sabi ni Direk Bernal, don’t plan anything with the bird. Basta you just confront the bird at bahala ka na sa sarili mo. So what I did was to make mura and kind of strangle pero acting lang out of my supposed madness. You know what happened? The day after, nagpakamatay ‘yung bird. Nagtampo siguro ‘yun. Kasi raw ang Myna bird ay very sensitive, di ba? Sayang ‘yung bird, ano?…” – George Vail Kabristante, Manila Standard, Feb 20, 1990 (READ MORE)

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FILM REVIEW: TAGOS NG DUGO

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The Plot – A young Pina was traumatized when her family was murdered while she had her first menstruation. She grown up into a serial killer transforming herself to different personalities as she seduced one man at a time grossly killing them while in the act of sexual pleasure. Eventually Pina was caught by the authorities. Considered by some critics as a feminist movie, Tagos ng Dugo has the feeling of claustrophobic but stylized European slasher movie that showcased the wide acting range of Philippines’ cinematic diva, Vilma Santos. The film lacks the usual long dialogue of her previous films but in this film, she was given a chance to show her body movements and “eye” acting that climaxed with tour de force ending, a mad lion being caught by armed hunters. – RV (READ MORE)

The Reviews: First of all, serial murder is almost alien to Philippine crime journalism, a fact that’s due certainly to our police force’s lack of records on such cases. Now, this police-records gap may of course in turn reflect a lack of local police coordination towards (or, worse, capability for) determining crime patterns as possibly serial. Unless those determinations have to do with the usual cop-out that goes like this: “it’s another NPA hit” blah blah blah, or “it’s another murder similar to the one that happened last week, and this is reflective of pornography’s…My above statements are meant to illustrate a national wont to demean our own police organization’s capability (or, worse, intelligence) that may neither be fair nor productive, but it would be a habit that certainly is not undeserved given the record — official and memorial — of the police’s prioritizing its own people’s interests and “rackets.” Given this background, therefore, Tagos Ng Dugo can be said to be a demonstration of serial crimes’ possible placement in local shores, and that would certainly be a valid view. Except, of course, that in effect Tagos is also — and probably should be read primarily as — a demonstration of possibilities other than the merely forensic. I say “should be,” since the police is portrayed fairly in the film, albeit not exactly generously. So what could be all the fuss about Tagos’ value? “Production values” is the often-heard reason, needing elucidation.

A breakthrough for Philippine psychological movies? Probably. Let me explore a few other angles on this seeming cross between Francois Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black and Luis Buñuel’s Belle du Jour – I don’t know if screenwriter Jake Tordesillas or De los Reyes himself should be congratulated for the cohesion of multi-resultants in this work. Part of this multi-readings would be the movie as a feminist take on womankind’s monthly pains as a form of excuse for female monthly insanities, insanities our machos regard as regular terrorism on the whole of mankind (men or society as a whole). It is with that reading that the ending apologies, by Vilma Santos in the lead role, might be understood as a plea for understanding of how all of woman’s monthly Eve-behavior should not be seen as a Biblical sin but as an equal (to, say, men’s beastly) naturalness….Another feminist reading, more radical perhaps, would treat the film as a view of how Philippine society (the men in it, primarily) approaches provincial innocence, educational weakness, and “females’ weaker sanity” as stimuli for abuse….There is, however, the possibly more general reading of the film as an apologia for insanity qua itself, how it should be treated as a disease instead of as a monster to be eliminated.

And finally, there’s the possibility that the film is actually a depiction of how crazy the world outside the insane mind really is, albeit this view would probably be the least successful direction for the film….As a bonus, maybe we can also bring the movie to more latent, more philosophical territory, say, how it depicts the sanity of innocence. But, given the validity and possible weight of all those approaches, what finally makes this movie a jewel in Philippine cinema history is how it brings forth — every time you watch it — its case achievements in directorial and film editing dramaturgy (including the recurring stage-like choreography, Hitchcockish camera positionings, and acting pacing within). For the serious student of third-world filmmaking, here is a requisite Philippine movie from where to cull precious fragments. In these fragments, he/she is sure to find sparkles that are in themselves gems. – Vicente-Ignacio S. de Veyra III (READ MORE)

“…Sa anggulong ito halos umikot ang kabuuan ng pelikula. Masasabing naging matapang ang mga bumuo ng pelikulang Tagos Ng Dugo dahil sa tahasan nitong tinalakay ang sekswalidad ng mga pangunahing tauhan. Mapapansing pinagtuunan ng pansin ang kabuuan ng karakter ni Pina na buong husay ginampanan ni Vilma Santos. Ang aktres ay halos nasa lahat ng eksena sa pelikula. Maituturing na hysterical ang pag-arte ni Bb. Santos ngunit sa pelikulang ito ay malaki ang naitulong nito upang maipahatid niya ang nararapat na emosyon sa epektibong paraan. Malaki ang naitulong ni Direktor Maryo J. de los Reyes sa pagsasalarawan ng kuwento ni Pina. Nailahad niya ng maayos ang mga problemang sikolohikal hindi lamang ni Pina kundi ng buong lipunan. Makikitang binigyang diin ang posibleng solusyon sa mga suliraning ipinamalas sa pelikula. Maaring may ilang pagkukulang ang pelikula sa naging takbo ng istorya ngunit naisalba ito ng mahusay na pagdidirehe ni de los Reyes. Sa anggulong ito naging malaking bahagi sa tagumpay ng Tagos Ng Dugo ang direktor dahil sa tuwiran niyang naipahayag ang patotoo sa mga isyung tinalakay sa buong pelikula. Dito rin natamo ni Vilma ang kanyang ikaapat na FAMAS Best Actress Award bago siya tuluyang naluklok sa Hall Of Fame nang sumunod na taon…” – Jojo De Vera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…Pina is Vilma and Vilma is Pina. This is their story. This is their movie. This is acting at its best. Thank God, Mayor Vilma Santos has come to the rescue of the Pina’s in this world. Unlike the super heroine and fictitious Darna who kicks butt as she battles with the forces of darkness and defend the people, here is Vilma, the philanthropist and the Mother Theresa of her generation, in the flesh, reaching out to the poorest of the poor of her Lipa constituents. Through her loving heart and helping hands, she has actually helped thousands of society’s outcasts, the poor and the needy. This is the Vilma Santos today: successful, revered, in demand, a winner in all fronts. A National Treasure! Who would have thought that the second fiddle to another actress will become the greatest film practitioner of all time and a capable Mayor? A great actress and an excellent Mayor. Nobody does it better…” – Mar Garces, V Magazine 2006 (READ MORE)

“…A series of unfortunate events seemed to hound Nora’s career up to this point. October 1, 1989 was to be the last airing date of the 22-year-old musical-variety show Superstar on RPN 9. A month later, it was revived on IBC 13 with a new title, The Legend … Superstar, but this was short-lived lasting only up to early 1990. Naging mas masuwerte si Vilma Santos sa hinu-host na Vilma! on GMA 7, which started in 1981 as VIP (Vilma in Person) ng lumang BBC 2 (naibalik sa Lopez owners ang ABS-CBN after the EDSA Revolution). Nagbida si Vilma sa isa sa mga pinakaimportanteng pelikula ng Dekada ‘80: Regal Films’ Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (by Ishmael Bernal), na sinimulan in 1988 at ipinalabas in early 1989. In December 1989, Vilma headlined a period romance-drama (Viva Films’ Imortal, megged by Eddie Garcia) at nanalo sila ng kaparehang si Christopher de Leon ng acting plums sa MMFF. Sa awardings for that year, si Vilma ang nanalong Best Actress sa Star Awards (for Pahiram), her first form the Philippine Movie Press Club. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” nasabi ni Vilma as she accepted her trophy. Later, it was Nora’s turn to get a Best Actress trophy for the first time from the Film Academy of the Philippines, for Elwood Perez’s three-year-in-the-making Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” sabi rin niya in her acceptance speech. Na-elevate si Vilma sa FAMAS Hall of Fame, for having bagged five Best Actress statuettes: Dama de Noche, Pakawalan Mo Ako, Relasyon, Tagos ng Dugo, and Elwood Perez’s Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos. Nora won her fourth Best Actress plum sa FAMAS, also for Bilangin. Walang itulak-kabigin sa dalawa, kaya marapat lang na mag-tie sila for Best Actress, as in the 1990 Gawad Urian, na ‘pantay na parangal ”ang ipinagkaloob ng Manunuri kina Nora (for Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit) at Vilma (for Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga)…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

The Director – Maryo J. De los Reyes is a film and television director from the Philippines. He began his career in the 1970s(Wikipedia). Reyes’ most significant works are the critically acclaimed Magnifico (2004), Tagos Ng Dugo (1987) and the commercial hits, Bagets (1983), Annie Batungbakal (1979) (Wikepedia). In 1987 Maryo De Los Reyes directed Vilma Santos that critics considered one of the shocking film that year, Tagos Ng Dugo. The film was hailed as a feminist film and earned Vilma Santos her fourth FAMAS Best Actress. Ironically, the conservative church award giving body will agree and also gave their 1987 CMMA Best Actress to Vilma Santos. Reyes will again direct Vilma in 1992.  (Tagos ng Dugo 1987 and Sinungaling Mong Puso 1992)

The Most Colorful Film Character of the Year – “…The decision of the film critics to inhibit themselves from conferring their annual Urian Awards is unprecedented in the group’s 12-year history…But the case of film year 1987 is truly abysmal. It is, in fact, beyond salvation. True, there were number of worthwhile efforts, in such specific categories as editing, cinematography or sound but again, this is taking film as if it were a highly segmented form, instead of a holistic and integrated medium of communication. The area of screenplay was, to my mind, the most borely abused; I cannot recall any single film where this can be considered outstanding. Blame it on the producers who were more concerned with much momentary fancies as inane fantasies, sexploitation flicks and anachronistic melodramas. Blame it, too, on the governement which doesn’t seem to care and which doesn’t realize the power of the cinema in the value reformation of a natin long shackled in a despotic rule…Then there was the dismal and embarraing Brocka opus, Magin Akin Ka Lamang, which is a far cry from what the director used to do with komiks genre, having elevated it to a level of respectability in Tahan Na Empoy, Tahan and Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, which is good enough melodrama. Even more sordid is his Pasan Ko ang Daigidg, which takes an egregiously compromising view of poverty with its Cinderella-like storyline. Even Ishmael Bernal was not spared of the spirit of idiocy which pervaded the past year and which threatens to hound us this year. Bernal, who often can be relied upon to transcend the limitations of the most trivial of storyline, simply failed to overcome the komiks convolutions of Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa. Also, quite unlucky was Peque Gallaga who was in bad shape in Kid, Huwag Kang Susuko, though he managed to score a few precious points in the action film genre. And what do we make out of Maryo de los Reyes’ Tagos ng Dugo, with its grossly improbable tale of multiple schizophrenia and made all the worse by the director’s penchant for pseudo-character changes? Personally, i would rate Vilma Santos here as having been last year’s most colorul character instead of a consumate performer….” – Justino Dormiendo, Manila Standard, Feb 23, 1988 (READ MORE)

“…She has lost some pounds (due to the gruelling shooting of her recent film, Tagos ng Dugo, but she is still the same radiant beauty…Santos is likewise bugged by the observation (presumably by some Nora Aunor supporters) that her performance in Tagos ng Dugo, wherein she portrayed a psychopath, was “Norang-Nora.” She could not divine how the comment was made in the first place. Was it becauise, in the film, she was handled by Maryo de los Reyes who is known to be a close friend and one of the favorite directors of Nora Aunor? Or, was it because her role in Tagos called for a lot of the so called Nora-style acting -expressive eye movements, prolonged byt quiet crying binges? Is she, in the eyes of some Aunor loyalist, as good as actress now as their idol? “Wala akong ginagaya,” defended the actress. “That was Pina, the role, I was acting out. I did not think of Guy or anybody else when I was doing the film. “But you know, that (comment) is good,” she said as an after thought. “Kinukumpara pa rin kami hanggang ngayon. That means kami pa rin – the rivalry is still strong.” On the other hand, one is hard put to imagine Aunor attempting Santos’ “patented” acting style (the ease and confidence in delivering kilometric line, among others). If and when she does in any of her future films, I told the actress, we would also say “Vilmang-Vilma” siya! She burst out laughing…” – Mario V. DumaualManila Standard, Feb 19, 1987 (READ MORE)

“…I had actually intended to evaluate the industry’s artistic accomplishments from January to June this year, but the consideration of causes simply overwhelmed the original subject. Anyway, in providing a listing of the more acceptable items, it would serve our purposes well to keep in mind that these titles were originally greeted with expressions of disappointment and frustration, with only passing acknowledgement of their respective merits – to which I now most carefully give mention…Tagos ng Dugo (Maryo J. de los Reyes, dir.): kinkiness rounded out with psychological backgrounding and propelled forward with a sense of conviction and sympathy for the plight of the subject…” – Joel David, National Midweek, 26 August 26, 1987 (READ MORE)

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Reyna ng Pelikulang Pilipino


Si Celso Ad Castillo ay marami nang naunang eksperimento. Pero pumaltos sa pamantayan ng mga manunuri. Maraming nagsuspetsa na may ibubuga siya, pero hindi lang talaga maibuga nang nasa tiempo. Malimit ang kanyang pelikula ay maingay at maraming sobra. Halimbawa, maraming karahasan na wala namang katuturan ang kanyang Madugong Daigdig ni Salvacion, seksing walang kadahilanan (pinagandang garapal) ang kanyang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, numero unong manggagaya ang kanyang Maligno, at sabog-sabog ang kanyang pinakamagandang nagawa, ang Daluyong at Habagat. Kung may magkamali mang pumuri kay Celso, iyon nama’y halos pakunsuelo-debobo lamang, at hindi ito sapat para itaas ang kanyang pedestal sa ranggo nina Bernal, Brocka at Romero. Wari ngang napako sa komersiyalismo ang direktor na inaabangan maglalabas ng natatagong talino.

Lalong nagduda sa kanyang kakayahan ang mga kritiko nang kumalat ang balita na gagawa siya ng serye sa TV na ala Cleopatra Jones na papamagatan naman niyang O’Hara. Pero ang direktor na ipinapalagay na laos ay biglang pumalag nang walang kaabog-abog. Bigla’y nabalitang may inihanda raw itong pang-festival na ikinataas na naman ng kilay ng kanyang mga kritiko. “Aber tingnan,” ang pasalubong sa balita. At sa preview ng kanyang Burlesk Queen, biglang napa-mea culpa ang ayaw maniwalang may ibubuga si Celso. Tiyak na naiiba ang Burlesk Queen, kahit ikumpara sa mga naunang trabaho ni Celso at sa iba pang direktor na nagtangkang tumalakay sa paksang ito.

Matagal-tagal na rin namang nauso ang kaputahan sa pelikula, pero walang nakapagbigay ng katarungan sa lahi ni Eba bilang Pilipina at bilang puta. Sa Burlesk Queen, para kay Celso ay hindi nangangahulugan ng pagpapakita lamang ng utong, puwit o singit, kung hindi isang seryosong pagtalakay sa damdamin ng mga tauhan sa isang kapanipaniwalang dahilan na nangyari sa isang makatotohanang kapaligiran. Sa kanya, ang tao ay hindi basta maghuhubad at magtatalik. Maraming pangyayari sa buhay ang dapat munang linawin at unawain, at iyon ang basehan ng kasaysayan.

Simple lamang ang plot. Isang tinedyer si Vilma Santos na alalay ng isang original burlesk queen, si Rosemarie Gil. May tatay na lumpo si Vilma, si Leopoldo Salcedo. Si Rosemarie naman ay may kabit na isang hustler, si Roldan Aquino. Nang iwanan ni Roldan si Rose, nagwala ang huli. Naging lasengga siya at tumangging magsayaw sa tanghalan. Mabibitin ang palatuntunan, kaya’t si Vilma na talaga namang may ambisyong magsayaw ang pumalit. Hit naman sa manonood si Vilma. Sa bahay, pilit kinukumbinsi ni Vilma si Pol na payagan na siyang maging full time dancer. Ayaw ni Pol, mas mahalaga sa kanya ang prinsipyo at delikadesa. Sapagkat wala namang ibang pagkakakitaan, si Vilma rin ang nasunod sa bandang huli. Nag-suicide si Pol nang hindi na niya masikmura ang pasiya ng anak. Si Rollie Quizon naman ang binatilyong masama ang tama kay Vilma. Nagtanan sila at nagsama.  Pero hindi sanay sa hirap si Rollie. Sa pagpili sa pag-ibig o ginhawa sa buhay, ang huli ang pinahalagahan niya. Nagkataon namang buntis na si Vilma. Sa pag-iisa sa buhay, nagbalik siya sa pagsasayaw. Nagsayaw siya ng nagsayaw hanggang duguin siya sa tanghalan at malaglag ang kanyang dinadala. Bagamat simple ang plot ay hindi naman masasabing simple ang pamamaraang ginawa rito ni Celso.

Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay nangyari sa isang pelikula ang pagsasama-sama ng magandang istorya, mahusay na direksyon, magaling na pag-arte ng mga tauhan, masinop na musika, magaling na editing at angkop na sinematograpiya. Sa Burlesk Queen ay nagsama-sama ang talino ni Celso (direktor), Mauro Gia Samonte (story and screenplay), George Canseco (musical director), Ben Lobo (cinematographer), at Abelardo Hulleza (editor). Kung may ipipintas sa pelikula, iyon ay ang hindi malinaw na pagbuhay sa panahon na nangyari ang kuwento. Kung minsa’y maiisip na nagyari ito sa panahon ng kasikatan ni Elvis noong 1950s. Pero kapag pinansin na maraming long hair sa extra, may wall paper at synthetic na sako ang bahay nina Vilma ay maaari namang sabihing baka naman pa-Elvis craze lamang ang mga tao roon. Pero may pulitiko, at Yabut, at may dagdag pang Connie Francis bukod sa motorsiklong Lambretta at mga kotseng Buick. Kung sabagay, maliliit na detalye lamang ito na agad makakalimutan kapag ang inasikaso ay pagbuklat sa magagandang punto ng istorya.

 Tingnan natin ang ilang magandang eksena sa pelikula. Sa ikalawang eksena ay nagtatanong si Vilma kay Rosemarie kung puwede rin siyang maging dancer.  Walang malinaw na sagot si Rose, pero ang timing ng background music na It’s Now or Never ay makahulugan. It’s Now or Never nga, payo ni Elvis. At kung kailan siya maaaring mag-umpisa, Tomorrow, sabi ng kanta. Ang ganitong sagot ay nasa mukha ni Rose, pero hindi na kailangang sabihin. Ang ganitong pamamaraan ay tinatawag na creativity ng direktor, na nagdagdag ng ibang pamamaraan sa paghahayag ng damdamin ng tauhan. Sa paglakad ng istorya, dapat ding pansinin kung paano ang characterization ay binubuhay dito.  Halimbawa, sa isang eksena na nangyari sa isang patahian ay nag-abot sina Dexter Doria, ang bagong kabit ni Roldan Aquino, at si Rose. Naroroon din si Vilma at sa hindi kalayuan ay si Rollie. Maliwanag na may kani-kanyang pangangailangan ang mga tauhan at magkakasama sila sa iisang eksena. Walang nakawan ng eksena na naganap dito. Naginsultuhan sina Dexter at Rose, natameme si Roldan at waring walang pakialam sina Rollie at Vilma na panay na panay ang kindatan. Lalo namang walang pakialam ang dalawang pulubi na tumutugtog ng violin (na siya ring background music) sa mga nangyayari. Limos ang mahalaga sa kanila.

Sa eksenang ito’y may gamit ang lahat ng tauhan, wala sa kanilang nagsilbing dekorasyon, walang nag-o.a. at parepareho nilang ginawang makatotohanan ang komprontasyon. Magandang halimbawa ito ng synchronized acting. Kung allusions naman ang pag-uusapan, marami ritong mga sariwang metaphor na mababanggit. Isa rito ang mahusay na pagpapakita na birhen pa si Vilma sa sex act nila ni Rollie. Habang nasa likod ng tanghalan ay may nagaganap sa magkasintahan, sa tanghalan ay nang-aliw naman ang mga acrobats na sinundan ng isang madyikero na tumutusok ng sariling noo, nagbabaon ng pako sa ilong at lumululon ng espada. Masakit tingnan iyon. At ganoon din ang nararanasan ni Vilma sa likod ng tanghalan sa piling ni Rollie.

Hindi rin madaldal ang pelikula. Kung itatanong kung paano tinanggap ni Pol ang pasiya ng anak, nagtulos na lamang siya ng isang makahulugang kandila sa altar na para na ring sinabing “bahala na ang Diyos sa iyo”. Kung paano naman ipinakitang naging mananayaw na nga si Vilma, sapat nang ipakita ang isang trak na nagbababa ng isang wheel chair na ipapalit sa lumang tumba-tumba ng ama. Maging ang paglakad ng panahon ay nararamdaman din ng manonood kahit hindi ikuwento o ipakita ang kinagawiang pamamaraan at ulat ng “nalalaglag na dahon ng kalendaryo o dahon ng puno kaya”. Sunod-sunod na cuts na nagpapakita sa uri ng palabas sa tanghalang kinabibilangan ni Vilma ang ginawa ni Celso. Saka ito sinundan ng kuha naman sa bahay nina Vilma at Rollie. Nag-iinit ng tubig si Vilma habang nakikinig ng dula sa radyo tungkol sa buhay ng isang asawang tamad at iresponsable.

Ganoon nga ang nangyayari sa buhay ng dalawa, at may kasunod ring “abangan sa susunod na kabanata”. Sa paghihiwalay ng dalawa, sapat na ring iparinig ang awiting You’re All I Want For Christmas, para buhayin ang irony na nagaganap sa relasyon ng dalawa. Kung makinis ang exposition at pagbuhay sa conflict ng istorya, malinaw rin ang paghahanda sa wakas ng pelikula. Si Rose na laos na ay naging mumurahing puta. Si Dexter kahit hindi ipakita ay maliwanag na sumama na sa ibang lalaki. Si Roldan ay may bago nang kabit at napatay sa spiral staircase ng tanghalan na siya rin niyang dinadaanan sa paghahatid sa dalawang naunang kabit. Si Rollie, ang mama’s boy, ay natural bawiin ng ina. Si Vilma ay nagsayaw-nangnagsayaw. Sa simula’y mahinhin at nakangiti at kaakit-akit hanggang sa pagbilis ng pulso ng tambol at pompiyang ay naubusan ng ngiti, tumagaktak ang pawis at manghina ang ligwak ng kanyang balakang, upang sa pagbuhay sa damdamin ng manonood ay siya namang maging dahilan ng pagkalaglag ng sanggol na kanyang dinadala.

Sa labas, matapos ang pagtatanghal, may tatlong bagabundong naiwan na nakatangkod sa larawang pang ‘come on’ ng burlesk queen, habang ang kadilima’y bumabalot sa kapaligiran. Kung matino ang kaanyuan ng pelikula, ay ganoon din ang masasabi sa nilalaman. Makatotohanan at masinop ang pagtalakay sa buhay ng isang abang mananayaw. Tinalakay rin dito kung paano siya tinatanggap ng lipunan at inuusig ng mga tagapangalaga raw ng moralidad. Maging ang empresaryo ng tanghalan na ginampanan ni Joonee Gamboa ay may konsiyensiya rin at nagtatanong sa atin kung anong panoorin ang dapat ibigay sa isang ordinaryong Pilipino na hindi kayang pumunta sa mga mamahaling kainan upang manood tulad halimbawa ng Merry Widow at Boys in the Band. Sila, aniya ng mga ‘dakilang alagad ng moralidad na nagdidikta at kumu-kontrol sa moralidad ng komunidad’, katapat ng munting kasiyahan ng isang Pilipinong hindi ‘kaya ang bayad sa mga ekslusibong palabas ng mayayaman.’ Samantala’y busy tayo sa paglilibang at sa kanila’y walang pakialam ngunit may handang pintas at pula sa mangahas lumabas sa batas ng moralidad ng lipunan. – Jun Cruz Reyes, Miyembro Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino Manila Magazine Dec. 1-31, 1977

RELATED READING:
Burlesk Queen WINNER of 10 MMFF Awards
1977 Metro Manila Film Festival
Video 48: Vilma Santos As “Burlesk Queen” (1977)
Vilma Santos’ Top 10 Film Directors (part five)
IMDB: Burlesk Queen (1977)
IMDB: Celso Ad. Castillo
IMDB: Rolly Quizon
IMDB: Rosemarie Gil
IMDB: Leopoldo Salcedo (1912–1998)
Pelikula Atbp: Burlesk Queen (1977)
The Kid, uninterrupted
‘Burlesk Queen’ Onto The Height of Pathos
Vilma Santos as Burlesk Queen (1977)
Amanda Page performs a burlesque inspired number for the MMFF Gabi ng Parangal (Video)
The Classic Vilma Santos Movies

FILM REVIEW: IBULONG MO SA DIYOS

The Plot: When her boyfriend leaves for Japan on a singing contract, a dancer is so distraught she does not see the car that hits her. The driver pretends to be a helpful passer-by; they fall in love and gets married. Only bringing her to a more complicated life. – Regal films

The Review: This films can very well be this year’s best compedium of caricatures and contrivances, and Vilma Santos has greatly suceeded in tarnishing her silver star with an hysterical homage to bothersome bathos. This abysmal melodrama begins and ends with a slight promise of something short of superb senselessness. Unfortunately, it breaks the promise; yet it rabidly recreates a deluge of disasters gladly survived by the superhuman will to ruthlessly exploit the baser sentiments of the moviegoers. True enough, the plot works and hurls Santos’ Monica into a miasma of perfectly orchestrated tragedies thus eliciting a fanaticism that enchants the heartland of sighing domestics and swooming dummies. And once more, sense and sensibility are lost in the celluloid cartograph of caricatures. Everything, indeed, is wrong in this film. The story is dreadfully downbeat. The screenplay is incredibley talky and torturously maudlin with dialogues aspiring for grandiosity yet indulfeing in petty praochial prattle. Grossly inspired by the Fifties classic Magnificent Obsession, this film wantonly lingers through a comatose celebration of tears and middle-class hysteria.

The direction listlessly lapses into the familiarity tacky Perez autism, but neither elegant nor eerie. From the opening production number to the last shot of the film revealed that particularly plebeian Perez panache. The Di Na Natuto sequence then becomes an encyclopedia of shots inspired by aspirational advertisements of toothpaste, softdrinks, jeans, and walkmans. Those isolated shots of Gary Valenciano against the San Sebastian stained glass rose window are obviously common man’s fantasy. Valenciano (Gilbert) and Santos’ (Monica) final confrontation in a scene straight out of a radio soap series. Yet there is an eminently indiscriminate luxe in the film’s visuals. And the production design scuttles from nouveau baroque hysteria to decotif humdrum. Even the Fabregas film scroe sweetly swings from pedestrian pop to neoclassic pretense. Evidently, the film style is anxiously eclectic and nervously apopleptic. Miserably, all the actors failed in their grand gesture to play caricatures instead of characters. Despite Valenciano’s evident poetic grace, his Gilbert emerges as a scarecrow of what should have been a divine anti-hero. It’s a pity that he can’t definitely pinpoint Gilbert angst. Thus he limps into a heartful of hollow anger and affected languor.

And the effete pretty boy caricature of Eric Quizon’s Emil doesn’t offer any salvation either, even if he literally gives his eyes to Monica. Quizon’s reading of the Emil role is clearly based on the shallow assumption that nice boy die young, and with brain cancer or other such maladies requiring high tech cure yet. Despite his shallowness of conviction, however, Quizon manages in a few isolated scenes though to imbue his role with ephemeral terror. In another variation of caricature, Miguel Rodriguez’s Mario is too dark for comfort. The updated yet needlessly overblown rendition of his character as caricature truthfully affirms a directorial styel that borders between irritation and consternation. Armida Siguion Reyna has justly succeeded in echoing her cinematic lifework of caricatures, this time, as Portia. And Nida Blanca’s rendition of maternal massochism ruefully regresses into moronic moroseness. Barbara Perez’s Elvie is largely languishing in love’s limbo. Eddie Garcia’s Emmanuel Vera becomes a fitting monument to guilt and philanthropy corroded by massive ineptitude emanating from the actor’s performance, Perla Bautista is sublimely reduced to a prop, a piece of dust, a whiff o wind. Even Vangie Labalan’s maid character promises great caricature.

But Nadia Montenegro, at least, has the promise of an almost perfectly wrought character. Too bad, her Connie is cheerfully relegated to hounding Emil and feeding him sweet nothings. Shamefully, only the way Vilma Santos is photographed and her face are the film’s glimpses of divine magnificence. She is superficially iridescent here. It’s a pity such iridescence doesn’t emanate from her character’s sould, but from the delightfully overindulgent lights of the cinematographer. Santos does manage, in at least three instances, to emerge from the limbo of her self-consciousness. Still, she largely remains in the dark as to the true significance of divine light in her character’s life. On the whole, the film should have been more effective as a radio show. Cinematic carnage such as this really deserves divine indifference. – Henry C. Tejeros, Manila Standard, Feb 29, 1987 (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: IKAW AY AKIN

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The Plot: “Botanist, Tere’s (Nora Aunor) long stable relationship with business executive Rex (Christopher Deleon) was shaken when Sandra (Vilma Santos) came into their lives. A pill popping liberal career minded, Sandra made Rex’s monotonous life colourful and exciting. He later realized that both women complete his existence.” – RV (READ MORE)

“An unusual story of three people caught in the unexplainable intricacies of love and need. The five year old relationship of Rex and Tere is put to a test as Sandra, the kooky, talented and aggressive designer rocks the picture perfect and peaceful relationship. The solid and unruffled engagement cracks as Rex is immediately smitten by Sandra’s dynamic persona. The film features the superstar team-up of award winning artists Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos and the drama king, Christopher de Leon.” – Database of Philippine Movies (READ MORE)

“Ang ‘Ikaw ang Akin’ ay tungkol sa isang paboritong paKsa sa ating puting-tabing: ang trianggulo ng pag-ibig. Si Rex (Christopher de Leon) ay batambatang tagapamahala ng isang pagawaan ng dyipni. Limang taon na silang magkatipan ni Tere (Nora Aunor), isang dalubhasa sa paghahalaman. Mapayapa at maayos ang kanilang pagsasama hanggang makilala ni Rex si Sandra (Vilma Santos), isang designer. Nagsimulang magkaroon ng sigalot ang pagsasama nina Rex at Tere. Hindi makapagpasiya si Rex kung sino ang pipilijn sa dalawa na kapwa naging matimbang sa kanya. Sa huli, nataios ni Rex na ang pag-ibig at pag-aangkin sa isang nilalang ay isang masalimuot na damdaming hindi nararapat sarilinin ng isang tao lamang.” – Manunuri (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “…After 37 years, Ikaw Ay Akin becomes a materialist indictment of the patriarchal deceit cisgender passion must contend with, opening up the queerness that emerges from feminine confidence as zone of alternative feelings. And, of course, Nora still punctures the assault with an imperturbable will to punctuate the sentence, despite the adages of her time failing to utter competitive affection, convincing Vilma that the encounter isn’t just about female rivalry, but also masculine decadence…” – J. Pilapil Jacobo, Young Critics Circle Film Desk, 21 November 2015 (READ MORE)

“…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. Except for some scenes with overdrawn energy, the viewing is intelligent entertainment. However, after an interesting beginning and development one feels the resolution is too simplified…and too calculated. Charing (Nora) is the confident, authoritative, ultra-responsible mother-figure who fits very nicely with Rex’s (Boyet) tentative character: orphan-psyched, retreating… an incomplete figure. Sandra (Vilma) outs a very colorful character: agressive, creative, lively – but underneath it all, essentially a clinging vine. They are such convincing characters, and all their needing and suffering come accross very easily from the celluloids. With just a few scenes they are rounded out. Charing and her orchids – a reflection of her care for Rex and her discerment between experiment and commitment; Rex and his parachute – a give-away of his secret longing to get away from all the givens of his life (the inherited business, cons of orphan’s loneliness even his 5-year relationship with Charing!) Sandra and her designs – creating is at once product of her character and a need (initiating a realtionship with Rex is expression of need more than any romantic feeling). When Rex, balancing the triangle, verbalizes all these into a very basic “She needs me; I need her needing me plus your caring for me,” clearly sided heavily on Sandra’s side, it is unbelievable that it should all boil down to plain need, that decisions on love could be made this easily. Questions: While one is at verbalizations, why not mention the giving side of love, appraise or even applaud it a little instead of leaving it implicit in Charing’s character – which could be, come to think of it, the key out of tanglejails of possession? Ofcourse Bernal might have been considering less subtlety in a bid for a more popular style. Granting that, one may still appreciate the five selections of environmental details that areally delineate characters and character development – a fine effort to bring setting characters and action into a unified direction – but are triangles the curret favorite in the moviemarket? If this means it is a main concern in many lives today, then…what a hell!…” – Petronila Cleto, Pelikula, Atbp (READ MORE)

“…Unlike other superstar team-ups that fail to exploit the golden opportunity of pulling in sure audiences to watch a serious work, Bernal’s greatest achievement lies not so much in putting his three big stars together but in making use of them to lure their fans and followers intos eeing a mature, sensible film. And his cast serves Bernal very well. In the hands of a capable director, Christopher de Leon proves that his forgettable appearance in such odious films as “Topo-Topo Barega” and “Disco Fever” are mere lapses in judgment that do not entirely discredit his craft. He also shows enough gallantry by not getting into the way of his leading ladies, whose roles are undoubtedly more demanding than his. As the uptight Sandra, Vilma Santos has the script’s choicest, wittiest lines. She makes the most of them and succeeds in giving a fairly accurate portrait of an emotionally insecure young woman. And when she tells Rex: “sabi nila liberated ako, front lang. Kalog daw, front din. Alam mo namang kulang-kulang ako. Pag wala ka, magkakalat ako. Para akong manok, takbo ng takbo wala namang ulo.” She likewise handles her final breakdown exceedingly well. Nora has less lines but she nevertheless manages to conveys her emotions very effectively. In that family reunion-party which is so engrossed in gossip and banter, she remains so detached, speaking nary a word — a triumph for both Bernal and her. The hurt in her eyes continues to build up until that disrupted dinner scene where she rushes to her room and, unable to contain herself, finally cries. The most stable of the three, you could really believe her when she tells Rex: “Galit ako sa ‘king sarili, dahil sinasaktan mo na ako nang todo-todo pero lalo ka namang napapamahal sa akin.” The film is greatly enhanced by Jose Carreon’s vibrant script, Mel Chionglo’s superb production design, the Vanishing Tribe’s fine musical score, and Augusto Salvador’s brisk editing (few scenes last longer than a couple of minutes). But the lion’s share of credit goes to Bernal. I particularly like his splendid use of meaningful pauses and oppressive silences, as in Sandra and Tere’s accidental first meeting at Rex’s house, Sandra’s soundless dinner with her father that leads to her breakdown, and the long, quiet ending scene where Sandra and Tere never say a word and yet succeed in finally communicating with each other. Our viewers are discomfited by this exhausting process, what with the underdeveloped tastes of our mass audience perpetuated by irresponsible irectors. But one fervently hopes for Bernal, who apparently believes he owes the audience his best even if they are more likely to love his third best more, that they would get the film’s message and, perhaps, even accept and like it.” – Mario E. Bautista, Philippine Daily Express, 1978 (READ MORE)

“…Mas challenging ang role ni Ate Vi rito kumpara kay nora…mas magaganda ang mga dialogues ni Ate Vi na nakakatuwa at magaling ang pagkakadeliver niya ng mga linya. Sexy siya ha at magaganda ang mga damit na ginamit niya rito. Maigsi ang buhok na medyo curly. Bagay na bagay sa kanya. Komento ko lang ay medyo matinis pa ang boses ni Ate Vi rito…Vilma-Nora Scenes: a) sa sine parang sa tingin ko ay di sabay ito kinunan sa tingin ko lang ay di sila magkaeksena rito bagamat pareho silang nasa sinehan. b) bahay scene – ang ikli ng pagsasama nilang dalawa rito na parang pinasabik ang mga manonood kung may iringan ba or acting sa acting ang magaganap, pero walang naganap na ganun! c) No Dialogue Scene – Grabe!! Ang galing ng eksenang ito. First time kong makanood ng ganitong ending…walang salitaan, sagutan, walang murahan, walang away, wala as in wala except labanan ng facial expression, eye acting ika nga. Kainis lang ang director na ito kasi pinaglaruan lamang ang imahinasyon ng mga manonood at ng mga Vilmanians-Noranians!…” – Dream Forest, V Magazine Issue No. 7 Literary Issue 2006 (READ MORE)

“…Makikita sa Ikaw Ay Akin ang dalawang magkaibang estilo ng pagganap na ipinamalas nina Nora at Vilma at kapwa akmang-akma ito sa buong katauhan ng mga karakter na kanilang ginampanan. Sino ang mas mahusay sa kanilang dalawa? Kani-kaniyang opinyon, depende sa mga nakapanood ng pelikula. Maraming nagsabing mas pinaboran daw ni Bernal si Vilma sa dahilang mas maramin itong mabibigat na eksena kaysa kay Nora, ngunit paano makakalimutan ang huling tagpo sa Ikaw Ay Akin kung saan mahabang katahimikan ang naging daan upang higit na magkaintindihan sina Tere at Sandra tungkol sa kanilang pag-ibig kay Rex. Kung totoong mas pinaboran ng direktor si Vilma ay nakabawi naman ito ng husto kay Nora pagdating sa nabanggit na eksena. Kakaiba din ang husay na ipinamalas ni Christopher de Leon, maaring alam niyang ang Ikaw Ay Akin ay pelikula ng dalawang malalaking aktres kung kaya tama lamang ang bigat ng pagganap na ipinamalas ng aktor sa papel ni Rex. Napagwagihan ni Christopher ang Pinakamahusay Na Pangunahing aktor mula sa Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino nang sumunod na taon samantalang kapwa nakatanggap ng nominasyon bilang Pinakamahusay Na Pangunahing Aktres sina Nora at Vilma sa Ikaw Ay Akin ngunit kapawa sila natalo ni Beth Bautista para sa kanyang mahusay na pagganap sa Hindi Sa Iyo Ang Mundo, Baby Porcuna. Hindi matatawaran ang tagumpay ng mga manlilikhang bumuo sa Ikaw Ay Akin na nagtaas ng kalidad ng dramatikong pelikulang Pilipino, nagturong umintindi ng husto sa damadamin ng mga taong tunay na nagmamahalan.” – Jojo Devera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…While the previous year was less productive in terms of quantity, Vilma Santos came back with a big bang the following year with twelve films. Most of these films were adult dramas. Three notable films were the critically acclaimed “Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak” directed by Celso Ad Castillo and produced by Vilma herself. The local film festival entry, “Rubia Servios” directed by the late Lino Brocka. And lastly, “Ikaw ay Akin” directed by Bernal. “Ikaw ay Akin” reunited Vilma with rival, Nora Aunor. The film also featured Christopher De Leon, who won the local critics’ best actor and best actress nominations for Aunor and Santos as well as best director nomination for Bernal. Aside from Ikaw, Bernal also did two other films, both starring Alma Moreno, “Lagi na lamang ba akong babae?” and “Isang gabi sa iyo Isang gabi sa akin” with Elizabeth Oropeza…” – RV (READ MORE)

“…“Ikaw Ay Akin,” 1978, Ishmael Bernal. A refreshing change of role for the superstar, cast here as a smart and sophisticated horticulturist at odds with best friend and real-life rival Vilma Santos. Notable for its experimental and long closing shot of the two friends’ reunion, with only their eyes talking…” – Mario A. Hernando, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 01 October 2011 (READ MORE)

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)