With her success and happiness all aglow

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The line is lifted from a Christmas song with a little alteration. But the message and the spirit of the season is still there. Intact. And that is Vilma Santos these days: glowing and with high spirits radiating. Who wouldn’t be, anyway? At thirty, she has still maintained that youthful look every woman is trying to hold on to as she goes celebrating from one birthday to the next. The actress is at peak of her career, and no matter what others say about the phenomenal legend and her unmatchable niche in local cinema, Vilma is slowly creating a legend all her own. At ito ang magiging pagkakaiba niya sa lahat. Kadalasan, ang mga movie queen ng local movies ay unti-unting nawawala sa eksena the moment they get to near thirty or that. Maging si Nora Aunor ay hindi nakaligtas sa “aging syndrome” na ito sa ating pelikula. Ilang taon na ba nang magsimulang manghina ang movie career ng brown phenomenon? Ganito rin halos ang mga nangyari sa ating past movie queens like Gloria Romero, Amalia Fuentes and Susan Roces: by the time they got to be thirty, unti-unti nang nawala ang kanilang charisma sa publiko, at hindi na kagaya ng dati.

Pero hindi ito nangyari kay Vilma. It is a fact na kung kailan pa siya nagkakaedad ay saka pa siya lalong tumatatag, lumalakas. And by almost all indications, it seems like magtatagal pa ito. Take a look at her harvest this year: “Ayak Kong Maging Querida,” “Paano Ba Ang Mangarap?,” “Broken Marriage,” “Obsession (Separasyon Legal),” “Minsan Pa Nating Hagkan Ang Nakaraan” and “Sor Stella L.” Although it appears na tila dalawang pelikula ang maaaring hindi na maipalabas sa taong ito (Obsession and Sor Stella L), hindi na rin maikakaila from the list above that Vilma Santos is still the biggest star of the season and the busiest among her contemporaries. At mayroon pa siyang mga nakatakdang gagawin sa pagpasok ng bagong taon. At the time when most stars are already collecting memoirs and reminiscing fond memories of past glories, Vilma is still soaring into newer heights as she goes from one competent film director to another and manages to become the highest paid actress in the country today. From Ishmael Bernal (Broken Marriage) to Lino Brocka (Obsession) to Marilou Diaz-Abaya (Misan Pa Nating Hagkan Ang Nakaraan) to Mike de Leon (Sor Stella L), the reigning movie queen is getting most of the choicest assignment these days and with the accompanying royal treatment.

Sabi pa niya: “Wala na yata akong mahihiling pa at this stage in my life. Maligaya ako sa aking pamilya, lumalaking listo si Lucky at nalutas ko na rin ang mga problema ko. I think it would be too much kung maghahanap pa ako ng kung anu-ano pa. Kuntento na ako sa buhay ko ngayon at siguro, ang dapat ko na lang gawin ay pagbutihin ang aking ginagawa.” With husband Edu around and some of her loved ones with her, Vilma can’t help but be contended with all the things coming her way. That glow in her eyes is unmistakable kahit na madalas siyang magpuyat and at one time or some other ay nagkakasakit. Katulad na lang nang matapos ang kanyang VIP birthday celebration sa Celebrity Sports Plaza noong November 5. Nagkasakit kinabukasan ang aktress at may dalawang araw ring naratay sa higaan. Maybe because of fatigue. Pero maligaya pa rin siya dahil nasa piling niya si Edu at si Lucky. In fact, she even made some effort to set an appointment the moment she gets well. But she didn’t have to, I thought. The next time I called up, nasa set na naman siya ng Minsan Pa Nating Hagkan… at kailangan niya itong matapos bago mag-November 15 dahil sisimulan na nila ang Sor Stella L sa Regal with Mike de Leon.

Halos mapang-abot na ang dalawang pelikula dahil the day na natapos ang dubbing niya sa Minsan…, kinabukasan, nag-umpisa na kaagad siya sa Sor Stell L. It was a good thing na hindi nagtuloy-tuloy ang shooting ng pelikula ni Mike de Leon. Ang yet, maligaya pa rin si Vilma. Iba na nga naman ang nagagawa ng pag-ibig. Sana wala ng tanong kung hanggang kailna ang lahat. Pero, dapat pa rin nating harapin ang katotohanan. As she has always said time and again, “Parang natatakot pa rin ako kung ano nga ang magiging kasunod nito. With all the good things happening to me now, there’s always that fear at the back of my mind na baka kung ano nga ang sumusonod nito. Sana wala naman.” Most people can’t really help thingking about it. And it’s good thing Vilma isa aware of that. But why worry of things that are based on unfounded fears? Right now, the world of Vilma Santos is all aglow and it is what should matter. So why spoil the good times and think otherewise? The world will not stop because one day you’ll be sad, Vilma. Keep going. Life is made of such stuff. – Julio Cinko N., Movie Flash Magazine, December 8 1983 (READ MORE)

Vilma, Vilma, Ang Sarap Mong I-direk

ARTICLES - Directors

Sa langit-langitan ng pagganap sa pelikula ay walang aktres ang makakatapat kay Vilma Santos sa husay at versatility nito. Maging si Nora Aunor na mahigpit niyang karibal sa larangang ito ay nagsimulang nagpakita ng gilas at halos pinaluhod ang QueenStar noong ginawa niya ang Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona at Ina Ka ng Anak Mo. Sa katunayan, unang narecognize si Nora sa Urian at sa international film community sa Cairo Film Festival kung saan hinangaan siya sa Flor Contemplacion Story at nakopo niya ang best actress award, mula YCC hanggang sa Cairo nga. Ito lang ang tanging grand slam niya. Hindi nagpatalbog ang former Scream/Gripo Queen kay forever Ice/Eye/Diin Queen by reinventing herself magmula noong mapangahas niyang pagganap sa Burlesk Queen at nang talunin siya ni Nora sa 1978 MMFF kung saan nilampaso siya ng Atsay at umuwi siyang luhaan like Rubia Servios. As fate would have it, at dahil na rin sa kanyang competitive spirit at nerve of steel, she re-grouped and vowed never to be second banana sa kapuwa bulilit niyang karibal. “Anything she can do, I can do better, I can do anything better than her.” Yes, I can, oh yes I can!” ang bulalas ng most awarded actress and mayor ng bansa sa sarili. And she did it. By George, she got it! And she could dance all night, along with her millions of fans. Nag-aral siya, nagmasid, nagtanong, nagtiyaga, ibinuhos ang kaalaman niya sa sining, at inalagaan ito ng husto. At mula noong naka-grand slam siya sa Relasyon in 1982 ay para bang nabuksan ang langit at ang mga paghihirap at tiyaga niya ay tinumbasan ng walang katapusang ulan ng mga tropeo, honors and citations bilang pinakamahusay na aktres ng kanyang henerasyon, at possible sa buong kasaysayan ng pelikulang Pilipino. Na-validate pa nga ito ng pagkawagi niya as exemplary media practitioner for film via the prestigious U.P. Gawad Plaridel Award recently. Nominations pa nga lang ay eliminated na kaagad ang supposedly strong contender na si Nora Aunor.

Napasama ang Reyna sa last three finalists at mantakin mong sina Mike De Leon at Eddie Romero ba naman ang kahelera mo at talunin mo ay daig pa ang manalo ka sa lotto. Talagang hindi basta-basta aktres ang the longest reigning movie and box-office queen of Philippine Cinema: Isa na talaga siyang icon or national treasure ng bansa. Kasunod na kaya ang National Artist Awsrd? Abangan! Nakagawa na siya ng mahigit 200 na pelikula, kasama na ang mga special guesting niya, at nagtamo nga ng pinakamaraming acting awards, mula sa Trudis Liit hanggang sa Mano Po 3 – My Love. Kamanghamangha talaga! Atin ngayong suriin kung sinu-sinong director ang pumiga sa Meryl Streep of the Philippines at sa the Filipino Cinematic Diva (ayon sa U.S. Variety magazine) at tuloy ay nagkamit ng mga di matatawarang karangalan sa kahusayan sa pagganap. Sa mga batikang director natin, tanging sina Lino Brocka (SLN) at Marilou-Diaz Abaya ang di pinalad na panalunin si La Vilma sa mga klasikong Rubia Servios, Adultery and Hahamakin Lahat for Brocka, at Alyas Baby Tsina naman kay Abaya. At ang mga ilan sa matitinik nating direk na di nakatrabaho ng Reyna ay sina Lupita Kashihawara at Mario O’Hara na pawing identified kay Nora Aunor. Malay natin, baling araw ay may mga pelikula na silang gagawin. Narito ang talaan ng mga director na nagpanalo sa Greatest Actress of Philippine Cinema…

  • Jose de Villa – in 1963 for Trudis Liit. Vilma’s first acting trophy (FAMAS best child actress).
  • Luis Enriquez (aka Eddie Rodriguez, SLN) – 1968 best supporting actress for Kasalanan Kaya? mula sa San Beda College Awards; 1975 best actress for Nakakahiya?, Bacolod City Film Festival. The most successful May December acting team in Philippine Cinema, ever.
  • Emmanuel Borlaza – 1972 FAMAS best actress (her first as an adult actress and her one of five from the FAMAS), for Dama De Noche.
    Celso Ad. Castillo – 1977 best actress, MMFF, for Burlesk Queen. Her change of image changed everything. The best career move she ever did. There was no looking back.
  • Danny Zialcita – 1981 MMFF and Cebu City Film Festival for Karma.
    Elwood Perez – 1981 FAMAS best actress (Pakawalan Mo Ako) and 1988 FAMAS best actress (Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos).
  • Ishmael Bernal (SLN) – hold your breath! 1982 Grand slam for Relasyon (her first of four grand slams, a record!); 1983 Urian best actress, Broken Marriage; 1989 Urian best actress, Pahiram ng Isang Umaga. Sayang at pumanaw na si ‘Ishma” – ang dami pa sana nilang pelikulang pagsasamahan. The most successful actress/director collaboration in Pinoy Cinema. Pinasabog na ang takilya, inulan pa ng awards.
  • Maryo J. De Los Reyes – 1987 FAMAS best actress, Tagos ng Dugo; 1992 New Fame Mag Readers’ Choice Award for best actress, Sinungalinng Mong Puso. Sana matuloy iyong Vilma-Christopher project sa Violet Films’ Huwag Hatulan ang Puso. Sana. It’s time for a Maryo J. and a Vilma reunion – perfect for each other – they’ll make a splash at the local and foreign markets. Abangan!
  • Mike de Leon – 1984 Urian best actress, Sister Stella L. In the recent U.P. Gawad Plaridel award for exemplary film practitioner, La Santos bested De Leon. Whew! Will Mike lure Vilma or vice-versa to make a movie together? Heaven, must be missing an angel: Mr. Mike De Leon, that is. It’s time for a reunion. Isa pa nga, oh! Hold your breath. I can see it coming. Mover over, Madam Auring!
  • Laurice Guillen – ah, the woman’s director – who better understands women but the outstanding actress cum director herself, Laurice? Her presence at Vilma’s coronation at the U. P. last July 4 is proof that Ms. Guillen is a true-blue Vilmanian. She gave the Queen two best actress awards: 1993 Grand slam (her second) for Dolzura Cortez; and in 1991 at the Urian for Ipagpatawad Mo, halting Nora’s almost second grand slam win for Pacita M. Laurice’s presence at the U.P. Cine Adarna is, probably, an open invitation for Ms. Versatile Vilma to say – OK – to Guillen’s script about a woman who spent most of her life taking care of family business, only to be abandoned or dumped like a hot potato by the ones she loved to death – with nowhere to go – no career/office skills – nothing. Do I hear a fifth grand slam? Aw, c’mon, Vilma, grab the script before it lands in another’s lap. Si Guillen yata iyan! Atat na ata na, umoo ka na, oh!
  • Chito Rono – is he Bernal II? His approach, his dark comedy, his overall style is vintage Bernal, yet very original, with Chito’s stamp of excellence all over it. Two grand slams for Vilma, for a total of four grand slams, plus 2 international acting trophies from the Brussels and CineManila, (1998’s Bata-bata and 2002’s Dekada ’70), is not bad. Is there a reunion in the offing? Direk Rono: “Vi, gawin na natin iyong script, bago ni Lualhati, bagay sa iyo iyon?” Vilma: “Naku, Chito, litung-lito na ako sa dami ng offers. Di ko alam ang uunahin. Ang hirap i-pass by. Nakapanghihinayang. Kung puede ko lang i-clone ang sarili ko, gagawin ko lahat ng offers sa akin. Kaso mo, so many good movies, so little time.” Chito: “Ako hintay sa iyo. Ayaw ko sagot mo Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng tagak. Basta ako hintay sa iyo.”
  • Rory Quintos – Anak shattered box-office records in 2000 and was the highest-grossing Pinoy film ever until Ang Tanging Ina (Solid Vilmanian Ai-Ai) zoomed to the top of the box-office. The 2000 best actress awards from the PMPC Star and PASADO are puede pasar, but millions of ‘luhaang’ viewers swear she should have brought home the bacon. All they were saying, please give Glo a chance! Sige na nga, senior citizen kasi eh. Doon nga sa Urian when Ms. Gloria Romero gave her speech: “I-share this award with Vilma who was so good in Anak.” BOW! Respect begets respect. Biglang sing si Aretha Franklin ng R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  • Joel Lamangan – the newest Vilma convert after he made Vilma grab best actress awards in the 2004 MMFF (Mano Po III), at the PMPC Star (her sixth), Tanglaw (her second) and Gawad Suri. He was so impressed by the QueenStar that he offered her a script she couldn’t resist, about the slums, a role to die for. Vi: “Joel, ang hirap naman, awa ako time. Gulong-gulo nga ang isip ko kung ano ang tatanuan ko eh. Puede bang next year na lang iyan?” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)

Mike de Leon

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Director For The Moment – “…The general public does not really know that Mike comes from the famous de Leon clan of showbusiness, his father being Atty. Manuel de Leon (erstwhile president of the Film Academy) and his grandmother being the late Donya Sisang, famous starmaker of LVN Pictures. Mike indeed grew up in a milieu that is purely showbiz. He is used to being surrounded by movie stars. Kaya naman hindi katakataka na sa kanyang paglaki ay hangarin niyang mapabilang din sa daigdig ng pelikulang kanyang kinamulatan. His first formal brush with moviemaking was in 1975 when he co-produced Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He was also the one who handled the film’s cinematography, and he won a Famas award for his marvelous sifirst job. The following year, he produced and directed his first full length fils, Itim. Mike’s early movies, Itim and Kung Mangarap, were hailed as gems of technical excellence. One can really see the effort to make the cinematograph, the sound recording, the production design, the editing and the musical scoring highly polished. But Mike was chided for the scarcity of relevant content in his films. Itim was merely an excursion to the realms of the occult while Kung Mangarap is basically a small drama about a confused youth and his brief affair with a lonely wife. Some even concluded that Mike cannot be expected to deal with subject that are socially conscious for he was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. With Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, Mike surprised his critics with a musical comedy that is a thinly disguised attack against the enroachment of foreign businessmen in our country. The Chinese and the Japanese were portrayed as wily capitalists earer to pillage their unsuspecting victims. For us, the movie was also a triumph for Armida Siguion Reyna and Johnny Delgado, who portrayed their neocolonialists roles with much fervor and enthusiasm. The movie also attacked organized religion and its involvement in deluding the people. Batch ’81 further enhanced Mike’s growing reputation as a conscienticized moviemakers. It dealt with oppression and tyranny using the basically cruel initiation practices of fraternities as an allegory. In Sister Stella L., de Leon’s politicalization is in full bloom…” – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash Magazine, July 19 1984 (READ MORE)

Focus on Filipino Director: Mike de Leon – “…de Leon spent his childhood in the family owned LVN studio, one of the three major studios of the forties and the fifties. He studied cinematography in Germany and the United States and worked to create the quality that LVN laboratory is known for. In 1975, he formed his own company, CineManila, whose initial offering was the monumental Maynila: sa Kuko ng Liwanga, of which he was also the cinematographer. In 1976, he directed his first film, Itim (Pitch-Black), a psyhological drama of a psychic who is haunted by a past muder, in which the supernatural is suggested rather than exploited. His second film, Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream, 1977) touched on the bourgeois values of the upper class as two lovers meet and separate in Baguio ans Sagada. His film Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba? (Will Your Heart Beat Faster? 1980) is a fine, innovative sppof of the country’s sacred cows, using Mother Goose language to hit at, among others, the Japanese and Chinese presence in the Philippines. His fourth film Batch ’81 depicts the initiation rites of aspiring neophytes into quasi-tribal fraternities, and is injected with so much double meaning that the gory initiation rites become a disturbing metaphor of post-Martial Law Phlippines. His last film, Kisapmata (In the Wink of an Eye) delves into the misuse of authority in a closely-knit family. The Mike de Leon style always hints at meanings otehr than those plotted out and creates powerful, disturbing images. Mike de Leon’s last tow films Batch ’81 and Kisapmata were shown together at the 1982 Director’s Forthnight in Cannes, marking the first time in its history that two films by the same director were ever exhibited…” – Focus On Filipino Films, A Sampling 1951-1982 (READ MORE)

The thin line between genius and sanity – “It’s easy to call Mike de Leon one of the greatest if not the greatest Filipino filmmaker who ever lived; he’s done only a handful (nine features and three shorts), but every one displays an amazingly high level of technical proficiency. In terms of sound design, cinematography, and editing, his films sound and look and flow better than almost any other Filipino filmmakers’; it may be argued that De Leon has never made a bad film–that his batting average runs a near-perfect 95 or even 100%. That said, De Leon does seem to have his blind spots. He’s never done a big-budget picture before (the only one he’s ever attempted, GMA Studio’s “Jose Rizal,” he walked away from after spending so many months and so many millions of pesos preparing). He never does explicit sex scenes, and almost never shows human sensuality in any form. He also seems to have trouble portraying women–they are either passive or impotent or almost totally absent from his films. For all of De Leon’s supposed range and versatility, you could almost chart his career on what he will or will not do, as if some complex formula secretly ruled his life. And perhaps there is. De Leon’s reputation for technical perfection is both boon and bane for anyone trying to assess his films; most critics only see the surface perfection–bow to it, hang garlands upon it, burn incense and chant hosannas to its holy presence. They don’t seem in any way aware of the turmoil beneath that perfect surface, a hidden turmoil the dynamic of which mars as often as strengthens his films, and is the true source of their power….Judging from his recent work, De Leon seems to have exorcised his demons and is content to do clever, even brilliant, comedies; the anguished artist has given way to the urbane, sophisticated satirist. Which is fine and good, unless you happen to catch a screening of “Kisapmata,” either in a retrospective or on cable, and notice how ten years later it still hasn’t lost any of its power to disturb or shock–that, in fact, it’s one of the greatest Filipino films ever made. Then you want to ask: “When is De Leon going to do something worth obsessing over again? When is he going to do films that matter again?…” – Noel Vera (READ MORE)

Miguel Pamintuan de Leon, also known as Mike de Leon (born May 24, 1947) is a Filipino film director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and film producer. He was born in Manila on May 24, 1947 to Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. His interest in filmmaking began when he pursued a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in Germany…De Leon explored subjects such as incest, fraternity violence, and the Filipino workers’ cause. These were themes that were portrayed in the films Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. respectively. These films became cinematic masterpieces in Philippine History of Filmography and were later listed as the Philippines’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1980-1989 by the Philippines’ Urian Awards. Later on, Batch ’81 was voted best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) where de Leon also won a best screenplay award. For Sister Stella L., De Leon won best director and best screenplay in the Philippines’s Urian Awards in 1984. Kisapmata and Batch ’81 were presented during the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film Sister Stella L. was an entry during the 1985 Venice Film Festival…Mike de Leon received the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 1999. His Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. had been among the 25 Filipino films shown in New York from July 31 to August 1999, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Philippine Centennial Commission, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, IFFCOM, the Philippine Information Agency, the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York and the Philippine Centennial Coordinating Council – Northeast USA. These series of Filipino films were presented at the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center, in celebration of the 100th year of Philippine Independence. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

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Mike de Leon: Director of the Moment

We were very much surprised to see Mike de Leon sitting at the presidential table at Mother China during the recent press conference of Sister Stella L. Alam naming pinakaiwas-iwasan niya ang ganitong mga klase ng “pakikipagtuos” sa movie press, always preferring to stay on the backstage when it comes to the publicity and promotions of his movies. Kaya naman sa simula pa lamang ng pagsasalit niya sa mikropono ay idineklara na niya agad:”I was told by Lily Monteverde that it’s going to be a small press conference. Had I known that it would be this big, I wouldn’t have come. But I guess this is her idea of small.” But once he started talking, Mike became very open to all queries thrown his way. He never rejected any of them. As a matter of fact, one could very well see that he tried to answer all of them as best he could. Although he has been directing movies for the past eight years, Mike is not that well known to local moviegoers. Probably because he has a small output (only a total of six movies made in eight years). Probably because he generally tries to avoid the press. But despite the fact that he has made very few movies, he and his works have won a number of awards. Itim was the winner of best picture in Asian Film Fest. Kung Mangarap ka’t Magising won the award for most technically well-made movie in the 1977 Metro Manila Filmfest. Kakabakaba Ka Ba? won the Urian best director award in the 1980. Kisapmata made sweep of several awards in the 1981 Metro Manila Film fest and also won Urian acting trophies for Vic Silayan, Charito Solis and Jay Ilagan. Batch ’81 won the Urian best screenplay trophy and the Film Academy best picture prize last year, and a lot of people are predicting that Stella L. will harvest more awards next year.

The general public does not really know that Mike comes from the famous de Leon clan of show business, his father being Atty. Manuel de Leon (erstwhile president of the Film Academy) and his grandmother being the late Donya Sisang, famous star maker of LVN Pictures. Mike indeed grew up in a milieu that is purely showbiz. He is used to being surrounded by movie stars. Kaya naman hindi katakataka na sa kanyang paglaki ay hangarin niyang mapabilang din sa daigdig ng pelikulang kanyang kinamulatan. His first formal brush with movie making was in 1975 when he co-produced Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He was also the one who handled the film’s cinematography, and he won a Famas award for his marvelous first job. The following year, he produced and directed his first full length fils, Itim. Mike’s early movies, Itim and Kung Mangarap, were hailed as gems of technical excellence. One can really see the effort to make the cinematography, the sound recording, the production design, the editing and the musical scoring highly polished. But Mike was chided for the scarcity of relevant content in his films. Itim was merely an excursion to the realms of the occult while Kung Mangarap is basically a small drama about a confused youth and his brief affair with a lonely wife. Some even concluded that Mike cannot be expected to deal with subject that are socially conscious for he was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. With Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, Mike surprised his critics with a musical comedy that is a thinly disguised attack against the encroachment of foreign businessmen in our country. The Chinese and the Japanese were portrayed as wily capitalists earer to pillage their unsuspecting victims.

For us, the movie was also a triumph for Armida Siguion Reyna and Johnny Delgado, who portrayed their neocolonialists roles with much fervor and enthusiasm. The movie also attacked organized religion and its involvement in deluding the people. Batch ’81 further enhanced Mike’s growing reputation as a conscienticized movie maker. It dealt with oppression and tyranny using the basically cruel initiation practices of fraternities as a allegory. In Sister Stella L., de Leon’s politicalization is in full bloom. One surmises that the awakening of Stella Legaspi, the movie’s central character, fundamentally parallels Mike’s own realization of the wrongs in our society. And this is what Mike himself says: “It is a conscientization film, which is the start of politicalization. It’s for those who still feel uninvolved.” Wasn’t he afraid that he, the producer, the film, would be branded as anti-government? “The film is critical of the government, yes, But I don’t agree with some people who say that it’s subversive. Because, what is subversive? It’s the advocation of the overthrow of one’s government. The film does not advocate that. What it advocate is organization. If you want to fight, you can’t do it by yourself. You have to do it as a body, then you present your demands. They’re asking me if it’s critical, yes, it’s critical of this government.” Mike also emphasizes that the film is not propaganda. “This is not a propaganda of the united democratic front or the opposition. It is just a film about people who go through a particular process and came out changed in the end.” Mike then narrates how the movie started as an idea in his head more than two years ago. He has met some members of the clergy whose views have grown from submission to the will of God to total awareness and involvement about socio-political issues.

The idea really is good material for a now movie. The movie was first offered to Viva Films with Vilma Santos playing the title role. Somehow, the project never pushed through and it was offered to other interested producers. When Vilma learned about it, she was immediately enthusiastic in playing the role and with the prospect of being directed by Mike de Leon. For a while, both Mike and Vilma felt the project would never get beyond the planning stage. Until Lily Monteverde of Regal called for Mike and said she is willing to finance it. Someone asked Mike if the L. in the tile really stands for the word Laban? “The title Stella L. was given to the project two years ago. The purpose is really to distinguish Stella Legaspi from Stella Bautista. A lot of people are really asking if it means Laban. But I always tell them na nagkataon lang. When Lily picked up the project, I think more than the story, it’s the title that she really liked.” The name of the establishment against which the workers in the story staged a strike is Republic Oil Factory. “Someone is curious if it is a symbol for our very own Philippine Republic. “Yes and no,” Mike answered. “The word Republic is really the production designer’s choice, Cesar Hernando. When we were hunting for a location, it so happened that Lily has this oil factory in Bankal, Makati. We made use of it in the movie. As with regard to the double meaning of the word republic, I guess that’s true. It stands for our country. Some of my staff even wanted to name it New Republic Oil Factory, but I rejected it. Masyado nang garapal.” Mike also narrated that because of the various changes that happened in the course of the movie’s being offered to other producers, members of the original cast he had in mind were also changed.

“Chanda Romero was originally assigned to play the role of Sister Stella B.,” Mike said. “But she was busy with some other projects when shooting started so she was replaced with Laurice Guillen. Joseph Sytangco was originally cast in the role of the reporter. When we brought over the project to Regal, Lily wanted Joel Torre instead. We tried revising the script to suit Joel. Pero talagang masyado siyang bata. So we suggested Jay Ilagan instead and Lily gave her approval.” The rest of the cast like Tony Santos Sr, as the labor leader, Anita Linda as his courageous wife, Liza Lorena as the magazine editor and Gina Alajar as the unwed mother who later kills herself were all personal choices of Mike himself. It was common knowledge that he has an initial misunderstanding over shooting schedules with Vilma Santos when shooting of Stella L. started finally at Regal. Would he have continued with the project without Vilma in it? “No,” Mike answered unequivocally. “The whole rationale behind the film was Vilma. Kung wala siya, hindi ito matutuloy.” The film that will be released to local audiences ends immediately after Stella L. talks directly to the audience about her transformation from being a mere bystander to that of a more actively involved individual. The version that was meant for international film fest audiences shows another final scene. After that solo scene of Stella talking straight to the camera, a special footage on the now famous and historic Lakad ng Bayan (Lakbayan) is exhibited. It shows impassioned Filipinos marching in a the streets wearing yellow Ninoy T-shirts and carrying anti-establishment placards. We have seen this ending ourselves and we personally feel that it is indeed a more fitting, more apt, more accurate finale for the story of Stella L.

“The Lakbayan ending is not originally in the script,” Mike reveals. “But since the Lakbayan was then going on at that time and since I believe in it, I decided to film it. I think that with that in the ending, mas malinaw ‘yung naging transformation ni Vilma. But when I shot it, Lily and I had an agreement that it is not going to be for local release. I was actually pushing for its inclusion intact in the local version but Lily reminded me of our government. But the print abroad has that ending. Is it true that the picture had rough sailing with the censors and this is the reason why the approval or permit was not released at once? “I went to the censors office together with a group of some fifteen nuns, priests, and pastors to inquire about the permit,” Mike narrated. “Mrs. Maria Kalaw Katigbak said that the problems was procedural. There was a vote of four against two for approval without cuts and she admitted that. The permit was released in time for the premiere. But if some people intended to harass the film, we were determined to bring the matter in court, even to the supreme court.” Mike was asked if the story was actually patterned after a real-life nun whose story ends with her being detained for eleven months in prison? “She is one of those interviewed by writer Pete Lacaba,” Mike replied. “But this is not her story alone dahil malayung-malayo na ito doon. Naka-part four or part five na ‘yon dahil namundok na ‘on. Stella L, is mainly the beginning. Conscientization stage lang it.” The formal open forum of the press conference ended with a touching pledge of allegiance to the movie by those who are involved. The staff of DZRH who were present promised: “We will be with you to the end.”

The press people also said they would support the film, specially after a rumor that is broadcast advertisements have been stopped. But the most poignant testimonials came from the members of the cast themselves. Vilma Santos declared: “I will fight for the picture!” Pahayag naman ni Laurice Guillen: “I’ll support whatever actions will be taken by the producer and the director.” And from Gina Alajar: “Sama-sama naming ginawa ‘yan, sama-sama din naming pagtutulungan.” Mula kay Anita Linda: “Isang salita lang: laban!” And Tony Santos announces: “Kung saan sila naroroon, doon na rin ako.” Pagkatapos nito’y nagtayuan na ang lahat. Namigay ng posters ng Stella L, at halos lahat nang nakatanggap ay nagpapirma kina Vilma Santos at Mike de Leon. Hindi namin ugaling magpapirma ng autograph sa movie celebrities pero this is one landmark film na we felt ay dapat lang na magkaroon ng more lasting memento with us kaya’t iniladlad namin ang aming poster at lumapit na rin sa presidential table. Gulat na gulat pa si Vilma nang sabihin namin: “Puwede pong magpapirma?” Pinalo niya kami sa braso at agad siyang sumulat ng isang mahaba-habang dedication -na ang gamit ay isang pentel peng kulay pula. Sumunod naming nilapitan ay si Lily Monteverde na producer ng pelikula at pagkatapos ay si Mike na mismo na siyang direktor nito. By this time, kakaunti na lamang ang naiwan sa Mother China. Together with Ethel Ramos, binalikan namin si Vi na nakaupo pa rin sa presidential table. Nang umupo na kami’y sumunod na rin sina Mother Lily, ang father ni Vi, Ricky Lo, Tony Santos, and Liza Lorena, who came late dahil nagbenta pa raw siya ng mga kalamansi na siya niyang business ngayon. Mike has gone out too by that time.

When everybody started ordering some coffee, natiyak naming magtatagal ang daldalang ito. Questions were started to be thrown towards Vi and Liza. Masarap ang kuwentuhan. Maya-maya’y lumapit si Viring, ang special alalay ni Vi. “Tinatawag ka na ni Mike,” sabi nito kay Vi. “Kanina ka pa raw niya hinihintay sa ibaba.” “Sabihin mo,” ani Vi, “umakyat na lang uli siya rito and join us.” Umalis si Viring at maya-maya’y bumalik uli. “Ayaw magpunta rito,” aniya. Sabi naman ni Vilma: “Sabihin mo, sandali na lang.” Maya-maya, bumalik na naman si Viring: “Ang tagal-tagal mo raw,” anito. Tumayo na si Vi. “Sandali lang,” aniya sa amin, “pupuntahan ko lang si Mike.” Nangantiyaw si Ethel Ramos: “Uhum, para na kayong mag-boyfriend niyan, ha. Natawa si Vi. “Ito naman. Naging close lang talaga kami.” Nang bumalik si Vilma sa mesa, kasama na nito si Mike. That was our first time to have a close encounter with the director. Although we have seen each other at previews of this and that movie several time, we never were really introduced to each other. We have asked him earlier kung bakit hindi naipalabas and Stella L. sa Cannes Film fest at ngayon ay mas nilinaw niya ito. “It wasn’t shown simply because I withdrew it from the screening,” he said. “To begin with, when I arrived in Paris, I learned that it was not subtitled at all. They had the print for almost a month but subtitling was not done. Then it was supposed to be shown in the directors fortnight section of the film fest. But the director general of the fortnight said he didn’t like the film and he’s not going to take it. A group of critics volunteered to sponsor its showing and I consented. Iniisip ko kasi baka makatulong. The film is facing a lot of problems in Manila and I was thinking that whatever favorable opinion it might got will help its release here.

But then I learned that while I was away, the film was shown to various audiences during several previews and we now have all the support we wanted, from the clergy, from the press, from the labor. And I felt that this is the more important thing. Without local support, no amount of international support will help the film. So I decided not to show it any more. What I did was I supervised the film’s subtitling until it was finished. Now, there’s a possibility that it might enter the Venice Film Festival which will be held in September.” With all the acclaim that the movie is receiving from different quarters, how is he reacting personally? “Well, of course, I’m very happy. But more than anything else, I believe that people who saw the film liked it so much because of several factors. First, it’s the first movie of its kind that tackled that sort of a subject matter. Napapanahon rin kasi ito, what with all the protests going on. So it’s a congruence of these things that made viewers like it.” Doesn’t he believe in the inherent goodness of the film? ” I do. Modesty aside, I think it can stand the test of time.” Will he and Regal be making more films of this sort? “It all depends on how this film will be received commercially and otherwise. Up to now, there are still those who doubt that it’s going to ever get shown in downtown theaters. Hinihintay muna namin ang resulta nito. But I have another movie intended for Vilma and this time she would be playing a journalist.” We extended our hand to Mike and, for the first time, personally congratulated him for Sister Stella L. We honestly feel that the movie is a personal triumph for him, for Lily Monteverde and the rest of the people involved in making it. So much has been said about local movies being inane and trivial and worthless. Mike proved that local filmmakers can be socially aware and responsible, too. Those who have been avoiding local movies for years and years, we now strongly advise you to see Sister Stella L. I concerns our country, our people, and it most certainly concern you! – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash Magazine, July 19, 1984 (READ MORE)

Miguel Pamintuan de Leon, also known as Mike de Leon (born May 24, 1947) is a Filipino film director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and film producer. He was born in Manila on May 24, 1947 to Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. His interest in filmmaking began when he pursued a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in Germany…De Leon explored subjects such as incest, fraternity violence, and the Filipino workers’ cause. These were themes that were portrayed in the films Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. respectively. These films became cinematic masterpieces in Philippine History of Filmography and were later listed as the Philippines’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1980-1989 by the Philippines’ Urian Awards. Later on, Batch ’81 was voted best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) where de Leon also won a best screenplay award. For Sister Stella L., De Leon won best director and best screenplay in the Philippines’s Urian Awards in 1984. Kisapmata and Batch ’81 were presented during the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film Sister Stella L. was an entry during the 1985 Venice Film Festival…Mike de Leon received the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 1999. His Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. had been among the 25 Filipino films shown in New York from July 31 to August 1999, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Philippine Centennial Commission, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, IFFCOM, the Philippine Information Agency, the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York and the Philippine Centennial Coordinating Council – Northeast USA. These series of Filipino films were presented at the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center, in celebration of the 100th year of Philippine Independence. – Wikipedia (MORE READ)

Vilma S. Meet the Real Sister Stella L.

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Those who have seen “Sister Stella L.” in its various previews and premieres nights are one the same in their opinion: it is indeed Vilma Santos’ best screen portrayal in the history of her long moive career! Si Vilma mismo ay inamin sa amin ito: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime movie role na talagang puedeng ipagmalaki ng kahit na sinong artista. Ang tagal bago tuluyang naisapelikula at natapos ang “Sister Stella L.” pero talagang mula nang ialok sa akin ‘yan, hindi na naalis sa isip ko. Kung kani-kaninong producer na nga inalok ‘yan. Like sa Viva noon na akala ko’y matutuloy na, pero hindi pa rin pala. Kaya’t kahit anong pelikula ang ginagawa ko noon, at the back of my mind, talagang nakareserba pa rin ang “Sister Stella L.” Itinatabi ko talaga ko ‘yan. Parang dream role na lagi kong binabalik-balikan. At finally, nang gawin na namin sa Regal, nabuhos na talaga ang buong atensiyon ko, ang lahat ng panahon ko. Ang now, after hearing all the favorable comments about the movie, and siyempre about me and my performance too, talagang tumataba ang puso ko at maha-high ako.

First and foremost, talagang it’s a great honor na makatrabaho ang isang direktor like Mike de Leon. Dati ko na siyang nirerespeto, pero after working with him and making “Stella L.”, lalo pang tumaas ang pagtingin ko sa kanya, First rate talaga!” Vilma recognizes the fact that without Mike’s help, she will not be able to give the right characterization that her role required. “Kaya paulit-ulit ko isyang tinatanong kung tama ang mga kilos ko bilang isang madre,” aniya. “and maniniwala ka ba, I met the real Sister Stella L.!” Nakakataw niya pahayag. Nagulat kami. You mean, sabi namin sa kaya, this is really a true story? Na ang kuwento ng madreng naging aktibista sa pelikula ay talagang ibinatay sa totoong tao? Akala namin kasi ay fiction lamang ito. “From what I heard,” sabi ni Vilma, “may kaibigan talagang madre si Mike na siyang naka-inspre sa kanya para gawin ang pelikulang ito. One day, dumating si Mike sa set na kasama niya. She is very pretty. Sa ganda, parang hindi madre.” Akala mo raw ay isa itong socialite. Ayaw sanang ipasabi ni Vi ang tunay na pangalan nito, pero we personally feel na wala namang masama dahil dapat pa nga siyang purihin sa kanyang prinsipyo. Kaya ire-reveal namin sa inyo ang tunay niyang identity. Her name is Sister Consuelo Ledesma, anak ng pinagpipitaganang si Pura Kalaw Ledesma at pamangkin ng ating current censors chief na si Maria Kalaw Katigbag or MKK. Now, isn’t that a very interesting sidelight of the movie? Ayon kay Vilma, tuwang-tuwa siya dahil naaprubahan ang pelikula nang walang anumang putol. “That means the censors now are broadminded enought to realize na wala namang talagang masama sa pelikula,” aniya. “Noon pa man, sinasabi ko nang ang ipinakikita lang ng movie, ‘yung totoong nangyayari, ‘yung mga prinsipyo lang ng taop ngayon. Like ‘yung mga strikes, manonood ka nga ng newscast sa TV, di ba makakapanood ka rin ng mga ganyan? Kaya I’m really very happy na it was passed without any cuts.

Kung pinutulan kasi, parang makukulangan na ‘Yung pelikula.” How does it feel when people keep on saying na siguradong mananalo na naman siya ng best actress award ss susunod na taon? “Naku, ha,” natatawa niyan wika, “ang layu-layo pa noon. Siyempre pa I’m flattered, pero ayaw ko munang isipin ‘yon. Ang tagal pa bago matapos ng 1984 at maraming-marami pang puedeng ibang mangyari. Malay natin kung marami pang ibang magagandang pelikula ang magawa featuring the equally good performaces ng ibang mga artista? Basta natutuwa ako’t ngayon pa lang, may panlaban na ko. ‘Yong lang.” With her fine performances in “Adultery” and “Sister Stella L.”, marami ngang movie insiders ang nagpapalagay that Vilma can easily rest on her laurels for this year. Sabi pa nila: “Maski huwag na siyang gumawa ng ibang pelikula at next year na uli siya magkaroon ng bagong release, okay lang.

For this year, talagang she has already proven herself.” We Believe similarly, too, but Vilma is apparently not content with just two good movies this year kaya she is on her way to making a third one. She is currently doing “Alyas Baby Tsina” for Viva Films. This time, reunited siya with Famas best director Marilou Diaz Abaya. “It’s a period movie, set in 1969-70 when unrest was at its peak,” ani ni Vi. “We’ve started shooting pero ilang ulit ding na-delay dahil ulang nang ulan, e. Tapos, nagkasakit pa ako for three days.” She will be completely deglamorized in the movie. Ang papel niya ay isang babaing naging puta at nabilanggo sa correctional kung kaya’t nilagyan doon ito ng tattoo. In several scenes, wala siyang make-up at ipinakikitang naglilinis ng kubeta. Clearly, this is another challenging acting vehicles for Vilma. Kaya nga may katwiran talagang magreklamo yung mga ibang artistang babae natin. How come she is getting the best roles in the best projects? What did she do to deserve such a wonderful, enviable fate? Vilma dismisses all these with a simple shrug of her frail-looking shoulders. ” I guess I’m just lucky,” aniya. “Talagang Somebody up there loves me. Wala naman kasi akong atraso sa kanya eh.” The bloom in Vilma these days is unminstakable. Talagang lalo siyang gumanda. And whatever joys and good fortune she is enjoying these days, we are sure she deserves all that bounty. – Mario Bautista MovieLIFE Magazine 1984

Sweet sweep for Stella

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It was a sweet sweep for Sister Stella L., the movie which garnered ten of the twelve trophies at stake during Friday night’s 9th Urian Awards rites. The Regal Films production was hailed the Best Fil; Sister Stella L., herself Vilma Santos, Best Actress; Jay Ilagan, Best Actor; Mike De Leon, Best Director; Laurice Guillen, Best Supporting Actress; and Tony Santos, Sr., Best Supporting Actor; Still Stella L’s Jose Lacaba, Jose Almojuella, and Mike De Leon were cited for the Best Screenplay category; Jess Navarro, for Best Editing; Ding Achacoso, for Best Music; and Ramon Reyes, for Best Sound. This is more than enough to compensate for its poor performance at the box office. ECP’s Misteryo sa Tuwa went home with two remaining awards for Best Production Design by Don Escudero and Rodel Cruz; and for Best Cinematography by Rod Ilacad. For his outstanding contribution to the film industry, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino bestowed a special award to William Smith for bringing into the country the first colored film laboratory. Some people could use a lesson in courtesy. At his age, Smith, understandably, could harlly walk, speak well or display clarity of thought, therefore, the need for him to read his remark of thanks from a piece of paper. While national artist Lamberto Avellana and veteran actress Mary Walter paid due respect for Smith, a young man seated beside us took note of this and declared, “Pare, ‘yung speech niya binabasa pa niya, o!” Although the presentation ran smoothly and briefly (yes, of long waits and intermission), notable was the marked seriousness about the atmosphere that night. Champoy’s twosome’s (emcee Cherie Gil and Noel Trinidad) efforts to perk up the audience were futile. The Urian show, furthermore, lacked star luster. Several guest stars failed to attend the ceremony as shown by the many vacant seats. Some presentors even had to go upstage twice. Have we suddenly grown weary of awards rites? Even the major awardees were not present to claim their trophies, thus, only Vilma posed for photographers at the end of the show. (Photos: Luis Garcia Jr.)

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)

SSL (Videos)

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

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

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Dinumog ang Premiere Night ng Sister Stella L.!

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Paano malalaman kung magiging malakas sa takily ang isang pelikula? Isa sa mga sukatan ang premiere ngiht. Hangga’t maari’y ayaw ng ibang produser na magpa-premiere night. Usually kasi, may nag-iisponsor nito, at sa kanila, sa charity – kung tutoo mang sa charity – napupunta ang bayad sa takilya. At siyempre pa, dahil premiere night ekstra ang halaga ng tiket, P25 sa orkestra, P50-100 sa balcony at loge. Bukod sa malaking kawalan din yon sa produser sa regular run ng pelikula, puewede pang mapintas-pintasan ito, at pag kumalat iyon, bagsak ang pelikula! Sa isang dako, kung gustong makatulong ng produser sa charity, at kung sampalataya siya sa kanyang pelukula, mainam magpa-premiere night para higit na maipaalam sa lahat na maganda ito. Iyon ang nasa isip ni Mother Lily nang ipa-premiere night ang “Sister Stella L.” sa Rizal theater sa Makati. Umbrella organization ng mga madre ang nag-isponsor ng premiere night, dalawang screening iyon. Umuulan nang gabing iyon, pero dagsa pa rin ang mga tao. Siksikan. Gayunpama’y disiplinado. Marami rin kasi sa mga ito ang mga madre. Kung karaniwan nang umaasa pa rin sa walk-in ang ibang nagpapa-premiere night, iba naman ang nangyari sa “Sister Stella L.”

Bago pa ang first screening, dakong alas sinko-medya, sold out na ang tiket. Nakikiusap na talaga ang mga hindi nakabili ng tiket na bibili sila, pero ubos na. Dumating doon ang ina ng tunay na Sister Stella L. “No, my daughter is not an activist, she only wanted to help the needy,” sabi nito. Sa kasalukuya’y nasa abroad daw ito, nagtungo roon pagkaraang lumabas mula sa pagkaka-detain ng 11 months sa isang militar camp. Mula sa siyuting ng “Alyas Baby Tsina,” dumating si Vilma Santos. Kagulo sa kanya ang mga tao sa lobby. Magkasabay na pumasok sina Gina Alajar at Michael De Mes, at naisip namin, mali nga ‘ata ‘yung balitang nagkahiwalay sila. Very, very successful ang premiere night na iyon. Katunayan, gusto pa itong masundan ng isang labor sector, tumanggi na lang si Mother Lily. “They will give me raw three hundred thousand, but I said no. Paano naman ang regular run ko?” – Bibsy Estrella, Photos: Peping Mendiola

Unprecedented Stella L PremiereKung ang batayan ay ang premiere night ng Sister Stella L na ginanap sa Rizal theater noong June 22, sigurado nang dudumugin nang masa ang pelikulang ito ni Mike De Leon kapag regula showing na ito sa commercial theaters. Talaga namang very, very successful ang nasabing premiere night at ayon nga sa mga nakakaalam, never in the history of local cinema na ang isang pelikula’y dalawa ang screenings sa premiere showing at parehong SRO. Obviously, maraming A-B crowd nung gabing ‘yon, tulad ng grupo ni Chona Kasten na namataan namin, pero marami ring mga manggagawa at mga miyembro ng iba’t ibang sektaryang pang relihiyon. Ang nag-isponsor ng premiere night na ‘yon ay ang The Organization for the Promotion of Church People’s Right/Response (PCPR). Ang Sister Stella L na pelikula ng Regal Films ay ipapaplabas umpisa sa July 14. – (Photos: Tess Evangelista). Movie Flash July 12 1984