FILM REVIEW: GING

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The Plot: A young Vilma Santos starred as Ging. A smart mouth street kid who have to beg for money to support her crippled mother. She was adopted by a deceitful couple who heard her sing in a restaurant. The couple made Ging into a singing sensation but abuse her, limiting her food intake and sleep to prevent her to grow. Ging eventually left them and surprisingly discovered her father. She reconciled with him and her crippled mother.

The Reviews: Ang sarap balikan ng mga pelikula ng the Premier Acress of the Land. Mga pelikulang may mga temang napapanahon kahit sabihin pang luma na ang mga ito. May tatak Vilma Santos. GING (1964) – all of 11 years, here is the newly-crowned FAMAS best child actress sa isa sa mga title roles niya bilang anak ng laos na artista (Olivia Cenizal) na nalumpo after she gave birth to Ging (Vilma). Ang ama ni Ging ay isang bit player na Mama’s boy, si Jose Padilla, Jr.(SLN) whose mother is the screen’s perennial conravida, Etang Discher (SLN), mother of the late Panchito. Padilla abandoned Ging and her mother on her mother’s wishes so he won’t be dropped from her “pamana” (will). Mother and daughter lived in a slum area. Their squalid lives are made bearable with the presence of a cantankerous neighbor Aruray and her son who was sired by a black G.I. named George. Aruray’s son is about Ging’s age. They practically were street urchins who beat the other kids in soliciting alms, thanks to Ging’s histrionics: she would fake syncope (play dead) and “kawawa” by relating her sad plight as an abandoned poor daughter with a paraplegic of a mother – through a song that would drive her audience at a restaurant to tears and pity – and would give her free food and money. The ploy works all the time. Little did Ging realize that an unscupulous couple, racketeers Ramon D’Salva and Carol Varga were observing her in a restaurant and saw in her a goldmine: they would adopt her and make them rich as her talent manager. Talk of child exploitation. Reluctant at first, Ging agrees to go with the evil couple provided she would go to shool and that they would send her alcoholic mother (bagay na bagay ito sa isang artista) to the hospital for treatment. Of course, the evil and scheming couple reneged on their promises. They exploited Ging by forcing her to work overtime and would starve her so she wouldn’t grow up and lose her audience. Luckily, she has a guardian angel in Georgie Quizon, Dolphy’s erthswhile brother who, along with Aruray provided comic relief, and who would protect Vilma from her exploiters. Young Vilma’s raw, innate talent surfaces most especially in her scenes where she vacllates or mulls in leaving her mother. Her final goodbye scene with her mother is heartbreaking, enough a motivation for a Vilma fan Nora Aunor in Iriga city to follow in her footsteps. “One day, I wanna be like Vilma, I will sing and make people cry. Love that “gripo” princess to death. Idol ko siya.” Shot in black and white and adapted from the comics to the screen by Mars Ravelo, the movie was directed by Cirio Santiago and Teodorico Santos. The movie is a must have for any true blue Vilmanian. Listang-lista at ang husay ni Vilma rito. Naroong kumanta siya (the voice over seemed like her singing voice), sumayaw at nagdrama. Luma si Madonna doon sa isang parang La Isla Bonita number niya. One memorable scene was when she was singing her signature song to the audience of her longing to see her mother and her father – the camera captures her pain and agony and the deep wound she suffers from her abusers – a poignant scene, complete with tears and and a well-internalized acting. Bravo! Karapat-dapat na U.P. Gawad Plaridel Awardee – maliit pa lang ang dyaske, ang husay talaga. Sa katunayan, some scenes from Ging were included in the audio-visual presentation at both the FAMAS Hall of Fame awards and the recent U.P. Gawad Plaridel coronation of the Summa Cum Laude of All Philippine Actors. Ang galing-galing mo talaga, Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos-Recto! – Mario Garces, V magazine 2006

All Vilmanians and even those who just love watching old Tagalog movies must have been glued to their TV screens last Thursday afternoon when Channel 9’s “Premiere Pilipino Klasiks” aired “Ging”, Vilma Santos’ follow-up movie after she was introduced in Sampaguita Pictures’ “Trudis Liit.” Produced by Premiere Productions when Vilma was only 10 (circa 1963), “Ging” casts the now-Star for All Seasons (and Batangas Governor, too!) as a street child who is in charge of taking care of her invalid mother, played by Olivia Cenizal. In flashback fashion, we find out that Ms. Cenizal was once a big movie star who fell in love and married a young rich man (portrayed in the film by Jose Padilla, Jr.) Padilla’s aristocratic mother (Etang Discher), unfortunately, breaks up the union and the two lovers go their separate ways. Vilma, as Ging, was born shortly after. While begging for food scraps from customers at the restaurant of the Chinese Ponga (I doubt if today’s generation have any idea who he is or how he looks like), she is spotted by Ramon D’Salva and his wife, Carol Varga. The couple immediately express their wish to adopt her. Vilma was hesitant at first at the idea – until she was promised by D’Salva that she would be sent to school, and her mother, to the hospital for medical treatment. Once she is in the D’Salva home, the couple show their true colors. They exploit her by making her perform in vaudeville presentations. Although she is a hit and a top money maker, she is still badly treated by Varga. For one, she is not given proper nutrition to stunt her growth (child stars are supposed to be cute and small). Little Vilma rebels when she finds out that D’Salva does not fulfill his promise of sending her mother to the hospital for treatment. She runs away and in the process bumps into people related to her biological father. Padilla and Cenizal are reunited and the little heroine lives happily ever after with her parents. “Ging” was directed by Cirio Santiago and Teodorico Santos. Although it was made in the old-fashioned way of making films (the flashback scenes in particular), the material used here is timeless – especially since there are more street children in our midst now more than ever. As far as the showbiz scene is concerned, there are still a lot of heartless impresarios today exploiting young talents in the business. But what really made “Ging” a delight to watch was the performance of the very young Vilma Santos. Even at the early age, it was clear that she was already brimming with talent. Vilma, apparently, was born into this world to perform, entertain and make people happy. She was utterly convincing in the dramatic scenes and thoroughly graceful in her musical numbers. Listang-lista – as we’d say in the vernacular. Even then, she was already living up to her showbiz title of “Star for All Seasons” because her performance in “Ging” is not only brilliant, but timeless as well. – Butch Francisco, People’s Journal March 04 1999

RELATED READING:
Ging (film) From Wikipedia
Vilma Santos – The Child Star
Vilma Santos in Mars Ravelo’s “Ging” (1963): Komiks Serial and Movie Adaptation
The Quixotic Quizons of R.P. Movies

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Filmography: Ging (1964)

“Pagmasdan n’yo ako…ako po’y ulilang lubos…inaapi at hinahamak…kung hindi n’yo po kahahabagan ay nasaan ang katarungan?!” – Ging

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Basic Information: Directed: Cirio H. Santiago, Teodorico C. Santos; Story: Mars Ravelo; Screenplay: Teodorico C. Santos; Cast: Vilma Santos, Jose Padilla Jr., Olivia Cenizal, Carol Varga, Ramon D’Salva, Aruray, Etang Discher, Georgie Quizon, Ponga, Jose Garcia, Paquito Salcedo, Eva Montes, Marvin Molina, Pol Todd; Executive producer: Adela Santiago; Cinematography: Lito Padrino; Film Editing: Demetrio De Santos; Production Design: Bert Amazar; Theme Songs: “Ulila” composed by Levi Celerio, performed by Vilma Santos

Plot Description: A young Vilma Santos starred as Ging. A smart mouth street kid who have to beg for money to support her crippled mother. She was adopted by a deceitful couple who heard her sing in a restaurant. The couple made Ging into a singing sensation but abuse her, limiting her food intake and sleep to prevent her to grow. Ging eventually left them and surprisingly discovered her father. She reconciled with him and her crippled mother. – RV

Ging is a poignant story of a poor gifted girl, trying to make both ends meet by singing and dancing in crowded streets and cafeterias. – Komiklopedia (READ MORE).

Film Achievement: No Available Data

Film Reviews: “…Pagbalikang tanaw naman natin ngayon ang mga batang karakter sa komiks. Sila ang nagbigay aliw, kinalugdan at minahal ng mga komiks readers noon, particularly ng ating mga ina (kasama na dito ang yumao kong nanay) na siyang tumangkilik, nagbasa at sumubaybay sa kanilang mga kasaysayan. Unahin natin si GING, isang batang iniyakan ang kasaysayan at unang ipinakilala ng creator nito na si Mars Ravelo ka-tandem ang dibuhistang si Elpidio Torres sa mga pahina ng Liwayway Magazine noong 1963. Ito ay isinalin sa pelikula sa ilalim ng pamamahala nina Direk Cirio H. Santiago at Teodorico C. Santos. Si Vilma Santos ang gumanap sa title role na Ging…” – Arman Francisco, Komixpage, 28 June 2015 (READ MORE)

All Vilmanians and even those who just love watching old Tagalog movies must have been glued to their TV screens last Thursday afternoon when Channel 9’s “Premiere Pilipino Klasiks” aired “Ging”, Vilma Santos’ follow-up movie after she was introduced in Sampaguita Pictures’ “Trudis Liit.” Produced by Premiere Productions when Vilma was only 10 (circa 1963), “Ging” casts the now-Star for All Seasons (and Batangas Governor, too!) as a street child who is in charge of taking care of her invalid mother, played by Olivia Cenizal. In flashback fashion, we find out that Ms. Cenizal was once a big movie star who fell in love and married a young rich man (portrayed in the film by Jose Padilla, Jr.)

Padilla’s aristocratic mother (Etang Discher), unfortunately, breaks up the union and the two lovers go their separate ways. Vilma, as Ging, was born shortly after. While begging for food scraps from customers at the restaurant of the Chinese Ponga (I doubt if today’s generation have any idea who he is or how he looks like), she is spotted by Ramon D’Salva and his wife, Carol Varga. The couple immediately express their wish to adopt her. Vilma was hesitant at first at the idea – until she was promised by D’Salva that she would be sent to school, and her mother, to the hospital for medical treatment.

Once she is in the D’Salva home, the couple show their true colors. They exploit her by making her perform in vaudeville presentations. Although she is a hit and a top money maker, she is still badly treated by Varga. For one, she is not given proper nutrition to stunt her growth (child stars are supposed to be cute and small). Little Vilma rebels when she finds out that D’Salva does not fulfill his promise of sending her mother to the hospital for treatment. She runs away and in the process bumps into people related to her biological father. Padilla and Cenizal are reunited and the little heroine lives happily ever after with her parents.

“Ging” was directed by Cirio Santiago and Teodorico Santos. Although it was made in the old-fashioned way of making films (the flashback scenes in particular), the material used here is timeless – especially since there are more street children in our midst now more than ever. As far as the showbiz scene is concerned, there are still a lot of heartless impresarios today exploiting young talents in the business. But what really made “Ging” a delight to watch was the performance of the very young Vilma Santos. Even at the early age, it was clear that she was already brimming with talent. Vilma, apparently, was born into this world to perform, entertain and make people happy. She was utterly convincing in the dramatic scenes and thoroughly graceful in her musical numbers. Listang-lista – as we’d say in the vernacular. Even then, she was already living up to her showbiz title of “Star for All Seasons” because her performance in “Ging” is not only brilliant, but timeless as well. – Butch Francisco, People’s Journal 04 March 1999 (READ MORE)

Ang sarap balikan ng mga pelikula ng the Premier Acress of the Land. Mga pelikulang may mga temang napapanahon kahit sabihin pang luma na ang mga ito. May tatak Vilma Santos. GING (1964) – all of 11 years, here is the newly-crowned FAMAS best child actress sa isa sa mga title roles niya bilang anak ng laos na artista (Olivia Cenizal) na nalumpo after she gave birth to Ging (Vilma). Ang ama ni Ging ay isang bit player na Mama’s boy, si Jose Padilla, Jr.(SLN) whose mother is the screen’s perennial conravida, Etang Discher (SLN), mother of the late Panchito.

Padilla abandoned Ging and her mother on her mother’s wishes so he won’t be dropped from her “pamana” (will). Mother and daughter lived in a slum area. Their squalid lives are made bearable with the presence of a cantankerous neighbor Aruray and her son who was sired by a black G.I. named George. Aruray’s son is about Ging’s age. They practically were street urchins who beat the other kids in soliciting alms, thanks to Ging’s histrionics: she would fake syncope (play dead) and “kawawa” by relating her sad plight as an abandoned poor daughter with a paraplegic of a mother – through a song that would drive her audience at a restaurant to tears and pity – and would give her free food and money.

The ploy works all the time. Little did Ging realize that an unscupulous couple, racketeers Ramon D’Salva and Carol Varga were observing her in a restaurant and saw in her a goldmine: they would adopt her and make them rich as her talent manager. Talk of child exploitation. Reluctant at first, Ging agrees to go with the evil couple provided she would go to shool and that they would send her alcoholic mother (bagay na bagay ito sa isang artista) to the hospital for treatment. Of course, the evil and scheming couple reneged on their promises. They exploited Ging by forcing her to work overtime and would starve her so she wouldn’t grow up and lose her audience. Luckily, she has a guardian angel in Georgie Quizon, Dolphy’s erthswhile brother who, along with Aruray provided comic relief, and who would protect Vilma from her exploiters.

Young Vilma’s raw, innate talent surfaces most especially in her scenes where she vacllates or mulls in leaving her mother. Her final goodbye scene with her mother is heartbreaking, enough a motivation for a Vilma fan Nora Aunor in Iriga city to follow in her footsteps. “One day, I wanna be like Vilma, I will sing and make people cry. Love that “gripo” princess to death. Idol ko siya.” Shot in black and white and adapted from the comics to the screen by Mars Ravelo, the movie was directed by Cirio Santiago and Teodorico Santos.

The movie is a must have for any true blue Vilmanian. Listang-lista at ang husay ni Vilma rito. Naroong kumanta siya (the voice over seemed like her singing voice), sumayaw at nagdrama. Luma si Madonna doon sa isang parang La Isla Bonita number niya. One memorable scene was when she was singing her signature song to the audience of her longing to see her mother and her father – the camera captures her pain and agony and the deep wound she suffers from her abusers – a poignant scene, complete with tears and and a well-internalized acting. Bravo! Karapat-dapat na U.P. Gawad Plaridel Awardee – maliit pa lang ang dyaske, ang husay talaga. Sa katunayan, some scenes from Ging were included in the audio-visual presentation at both the FAMAS Hall of Fame awards and the recent U.P. Gawad Plaridel coronation of the Summa Cum Laude of All Philippine Actors. Ang galing-galing mo talaga, Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos-Recto! – Mario Garces, V magazine issue no. 6 2006 (READ MORE)

Georgie Quizon – “…Like Dolphy, Georgie started out in comedy roles. In fact, he was his brother’s follower noon pang nasa Sampaguita Studios si Dolph at isa siyang mainstay ditto. Nang minsang isinama ni Dolph si Georgie sa kanyang shooting ay namataan si Georgie ng isang direktor a binigyan ito ng bit role. He was found out to have his brother’s talent and soon, Georgie found himself in one picture after another, mostly in Susan Roces-starrers where he played her sidekick or friendly neighbor. Ito ang simula ng binyag ni Georgie sa pelikula. Naging sikat din siyang comedian. Kaya lang ang problema niya ay hindi siya makakatakas sa image at pangalan ng kanyang kapatid na lalong sikat. Kahit ano ang gawin niya ay siyempre, associated and identified siya kay Dolphy. “Ito ang malaki kong problema,” nabanggit ni Georgie sa amin. “But I also love my brother! Kung wala naman si Ompong ay sino kami, aber! Siguro, ganito ang buhay kung mayroon kang tanyag na kapatid na parehong propesyon. Kung sino ang mas sikat, iyon ang mas kilala. At ang hindi ay nananatili sa background. Tulad ko,” aniya. “Ako ang anino ni Dolphy. Hindi ako kilala sa sarili ko. Ako raw ay kapatid ni Dolphy. And never was I called my name. Kung minsan nga ay ako raw si Dolphy. Ganoon. “Kung minsan, I feel flattered. Pero kadalasan, tinatanggap ko na lamang nang basta ganoon. Kibit balikat baga. Ano pa nga ba ang magagawa ko? Kapatid ko iyon at sikat pa! “Kaya lang, I really want to be on my own. I want to be known as Georgie at hindi yung kapatid ni Dolphy. I am my won individual. Iba ako, iba siya. Nagkataon lamang na nagko-comedy rin ako. Kaya hindi talaga ako makakatakas sa kanyang anino,” pagtatapat ni Georgie….

…As a whole, wala naman siyang reklamo. Okey naman ang takbo ng kanyang showbiz career. Hindi siya nawawalan ng assignment. Tuwing Linggo, mayroon siyang TV show, nagge-guest din siya sa mga tanyag na shows at kung minsan, kumakanta siya sa mga roadshows, sa mga bases. “Para sa akin, tipong okey na ang lahat,” banggit pa ni Georgie. Everything’s fine. I am busy everyday. Malusog pa ang ermat, masasaya kaming lahat. Wala na yata akong mahihiling pa,” Georgie confessed. The other surviving brother of Dolphy and Georgie is named JIMMY, ang bunso sa lahat na hindi kailanman sumali sa showbiz. Nasa States siya ngayon at isang medical intern sa isang tanyag na ospital doon. Sampu sanang lahat sina Dolph, kaya lang tatlo na ang namatay. Sina Tessie, ang uang Jimmy na siyang pang-walo at si Melencio, Jr. na binawian ng buhay noong early 1970’s. Ang iba – sina Zony, Dolphy, Josie, Laura, Auring at Georgie – ay pawang naging showbiz folks at dalawa na lamang sa kanila ang aktibo sa pelikula. Sina Dolphy at Georgie nalamang, bagamat ang iba, sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga anak, ay kasama pa rin sa iba’t ibang aspeto ng paggawa ng pelikula, particular na sa RVQ Productions syempre…” – Ross F. Celino, Jingle Extra Hot Movie Entertainment Magazine No. 20, June 22, 1981 (READ MORE)

“…Young and cute Vilma Santos is one of the few child stars who have hit the screen with continued success. Although not as well-publicized as the adult stars, she is gaining popularity with lot of fans who recognize her warm personality and talent. Her successful debut in Sampaguita Pictures’ Trusdis Liit gave her more movie offers. Vilma, who just turned 13 last Nov. 3, has been in the movies for three years and already has 16 pictures to her credit. A talented youngster, she often steals the spotlight from her senior colleagues. In Ging, Naligaw Na Anghel, Anak Ang Iyong Ina, and many other films, she was a standout in tear-jearking scenes. As a result, she is always in demand for such roles. Despite her success, Vilma remains unaffected as a child. At the St. mary’s Academy where she is a six-grader, she has more than her share of friends not because she is a celebrity but because of her natural chumminess. In fact, she is so fond of her friends that their house on Lunas St in La Loma, Quezon City is often filled with them. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Amado Santos, do not discourage her gregariousness and instead look upon it as part of her developing personality…Vilma’s movie commitments don’t prevent her from being a good student. She could have been easily way above average if only her shooting schedules sometimes do not prevent her from attending her classes. “Doing two tasks at the same time gave me a hard time at the beginning but I’ve adjusted to it now,” said this youngster who still goes for lollipops, ice cream, toys, and play. Vilma, who spends her leisure hours listening to radio dramas, dancing and playing with her three other sisters, will be seen in her coming films, Sigaw Ng Batingaw of Argo Productions…” – Julio F. Silverio, The Weekly Nation, 31 December 1965, reposted at Pelikula Atbp blog (READ MORE)

RELATED READING:

Filmography: Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (1989)

“Irene…Di ko kaya ang walong buwan! Kung mamatay rin lang ako…mamatay na ako ngayon o bukas o sa linggo pero hindi ko kaya ang walong buwan!” – Juliet Espiritu

“…Irene, ayoko ng mahabang burol kung maari kinabukasan rin ipalibing mo na ako.” – Juliet Espiritu

“Ayoko ko pang mamatay…paano si Chad?…hahanapin ako ng anak ko, hindi siya sanay ng wala ako…Ariel…gusto ko pang mabuhay, kahit ilang araw lang, kahit konting oras lang, kahit isang umaga lang…” – Juliet Espiritu

“Ariel maliwanag na ba?…anong kulay ng langit?…at ang dagat?…ang mga mangingisda nandiyan na ba?…Ariel…ang ganda ng mundo!…ang sarap mabuhay!” – Juliet Espiritu

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Basic Information: Directed: Ishmael Bernal; Story, screenplay: Jose Javier Reyes; Cast: Vilma Santos, Gabby Concepcion, Eric Quizon, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Billy Crawford, Olivia Cenizal, Tita Muñoz, Gil de Leon, Dexter Doria, Vicky Suba, Subas Herrero, Cris Vertido, Toby Alejar, Tony Angeles, Symon Soler, Gina Perez, Alma Lerma, Roy Alvarez, Becky Misa; Executive producer: Lily Monteverde; Original Music: Willy Cruz; Cinematography: Manolo Abaya, Eduardo Jacinto, Nonong Rasca; Film Editing: Augusto Salvador; Production Design: Elmer Manapul; Sound: Joe Climaco; Theme Songs: “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga” performed by Zsa Zsa Padilla

Plot Description: Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (English title: “To Live Another Day,” “On Borrowed Time” or “Lend Me One Morning”) 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. – DVD cover description

After getting bumped up to vice president at her advertising firm, Juliet (Vilma Santos) is floating on cloud nine, but fate soon delivers a brutal shock that knocks her off her perch: a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. With just eight months to live, Juliet embarks on a mental and physical journey to erase her regrets. Along the way, she meets a painter (Eric Quizon) who changes her outlook in this poignant drama. – Netflix

To Live Another Day (Pahiram ng Isang Umaga) revolves around Juliet, 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, who is constantly depressed and perpetually contemplating suicide. She slowly loses her health but unknowingly reawakens Ariel’s 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. – Cine Filipino/Unico Home Entertainment

Film Achievements: 1989 URIAN: Best Actress – Vilma Santos; Best Cinematography – Manolo Abaya, Eduardo Jacinto, Nonong Rasca; Best Director – Ishmael Bernal; Best Picture – Lily Monteverde, Regal Films; Best Screenplay – Jose Javier Reyes; Best Supporting Actor – Eric Quizon; 1989 STAR: Best Picture – Lily Monteverde, Regal Films; Best Actress – Vilma Santos; Best Cinematography – Manolo Abaya, Eduardo Jacinto, Nonong Rasca; Best Director – Ishmael Bernal; Best Musical Score – Willy Cruz; Best Supporting Actor – Eric Quizon; 1989 FAMAS: Best Musical Score – Willy Cruz; Best Theme Song – Willy Cruz; 1989 FAP: Best Sound – Joe Climaco

Other Film Achievements 1989 FAP: Best Actress nomination – Vilma Santos; 1989 URIAN: Best Actor nomination – Gabby Concepcion; Best Editing nomination – Augusto Salvador; Best Music nomination – Willy Cruz; Best Production Design nomination – Elmer Manapul; Best Sound nomination – Joe Climaco; Best Supporting Actress nomination – Vicky Suba; 1989 FAMAS: Best Child Actor nomination – Billy Crawford; Best Director nomination – Ishmael Bernal; Best Picture nomination – Lily Monteverde, Regal Films; Best Supporting Actor nomination – Eric Quizon

Film Reviews: A Look at Death and the Affirmation of LifeWeepies 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, Malaya – 5 March 1989

“…Epektibo ang Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga bilang isang tuwirang dramatikong pelikula naglalahad ng suliranin ng mga taong pumapasailaim sa isang krisis. Sa paggamit ng tradisyonal na pamamaraaan ukol sa tema ng kamatayan, si Bernal at ang manunulat nitong si Jose Javier Reyes ay sumilip sa buhay ng isang babaeng nalalapit na sa kanyang huling hantungan. Napag-alaman ni Juliet (Vilma Santos) mula sa kanyang doktor na mayroon siyang pito hanggang walong buwang palugit sa kanyang buhay at ninais nitong isaayos ang mga suliraning bumabalot sa kanyang buong pagkatao sa loob ng maikling panahong ilalagi niya sa mundo. Lahat ng emosyonal at sikolohikal na kundisyon ng isang taong nabubuhay na lamang sa hiram na panahon ay tahasang ipinakita ni Bernal sa mga manonood. Mababanaag dito amg iba’t-ibang simbulo ng pumapaimbulog sa konsepto ng kamatayan. Kadalasa’y naangkop ito sa mga situwasyong dinaranas ng karakter ni Juliet at taliwas din kung minsan. Mula sa pagtatanim ng mga magbubukid hanggang sa pag-ani nito bilang simbulo ng pagkabuhay ay mahirap maitanggi. May mga tagpong ipnapakita ang paglubog ng araw, at ang walang patumanggang pag-ulan ay pagpapahiwatig ng pagbuhos ng bagong hinaharap. Ngunit isang mariing simbulong ginamit sa pelikula ay ang proseso ng paglikha ng sining sa katauhan ng pintor na si Ariel (Eric Quizon) na kinaibigan ni Juliet. Maraming maihahalintulad dito. Sinasalamin ng pintor ang buhay sa pamamgitan ng paglikha ng mga larawang kadalasan ay naglalahad ng gulo at pagkalitong umabot sa pagnanasa nitong kitlin ang sariling buhay, dahilan sa hindi niya makayanan ang pakikipagsapalaran sa buhay. Napapalibutan ng imahinasyon ang kanyang mundo ngunit nais pa rin niya itong talikuran. ito naman ang pagkakaiba ni Ariel kay Juliet na gagawin ang lahat upang madugtungan ang nauudlot na buhay…” – Jojo Devera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

Mas Mahusay si Vilma Kaysa kay Nora – 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

“…Topping Vilma Santos’ showbiz career for 1988 was her winning the “best tv host” title and her tv program Vilma as the best musical variety show from the Star Awards of the Philippine Movie Press Club. Vilma is a constant top rater. Nobody can question the result of the survey for its popularity, because everybody could see the glitter of the show with all the grand seting, artistic costumes, and selected celebrities as guests plus Santos’ vibrance, enthusiasm and untiring efforts in entertaining her audience. The actress is meticulous even in the selection of the color scheme of her costumes. For 1989, Santos promises a much better show for Vilma with more expensive props, more interesting musical numbers and some attractive numbers and novelties to render it a delightful viewing. The actress is now resuming shooting of Pahiram ng Isang Umaga which did not make it at the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival due to certain delays, like Ibulong Mo sa Diyos her current movie Pahiram… is supposed to be Regal Films’s first main attraction for 1989. Some of the scenes were filmed in the virgin forest of Botolan, Zambales. The serenity of the rustic place enabled the actress to re-evaluate her life before the New Year sets in. Santos has Gabby Concepcion and Eric Quizon for leading men in the movie. Quizon has admitted that so far this is his most challenging role in his entire movie career. The drama flick is expected to be another blockbuster and will reap acting honors for the actress. She is back with Ishmael Bernal in this movie, the same director who made possible her bagging all the best actress awards in 1982 for the movie Relasyon…” – Eddie O. Libo-on, Manila Standard, Jan 9, 1989 (READ MORE)

“…Koronel is all set to do a film for Viva and we’re sure her fans are all agog about it. Will she be a threat to the throne now occupied by Vilma Santos as “The Actress” to be reckoned with? If we’d make a guess, Lino Brocka’s the right director for the first comeback film of this actress. There’s a certain chemistry between them in the same way there’s an “artistic symbiosis” between Santos and Ishmael Bernal. And speaking of the last duo, we finally got to see “Pahiram ng Isang Umaga” and it’s true what they were all raving about. It’s Vilma’s best to date and we’re willing to bet that she’ll garner another grand slam next year for this movie. Ditto with Bernal. It’s not only an artistic movie; It’s very commercial. Only we should have brought a towel instead of a hankie…” – Nena Z. Villanueva, Manila Standard, Mar 2, 1989 (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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