REVIEW | Ang Babaeng Humayo [The Woman Who Left] (2016)

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“Di mo ‘ko kilala. ‘Pag nakilala mo ako, matatakot ka.”

In a world where truth hides between kindness and darkness, there is no other way to reveal it than disguise in kindness in the midst of darkness. This is what Horacia Somarostro (Charo Santos-Concio) did when she found out the truth after thirty years of suffering inside the correctional because of a crime she did not commit in the first place.

A schoolteacher prior to her imprisonment, Horacia spends the first days of her restored freedom by planning to kill Rodrigo Trinidad (Michael de Mesa), a powerful man in a remote island town who used to be her ex-lover. Rodrigo was the mastermind behind her incarceration, according to a written confession by Horacia’s closest fellow inside the prison Petra (Sharmaine Centenera-Buencamino) before she killed herself. Petra was the real person who did the crime that they blamed to Horacia and it was done through Rodrigo’s orders. She wants to seek retribution by ending Rodrigo’s life in her own hands before finding for her lost son Junior who was last seen in the streets of Manila. There she becomes Renata, an owner of a small eatery by day and a gallant hoodlum who wanders in the streets by night. She makes friends with Mameng (Jean Judith Javier), a mentally-challenged street dweller and Kuba (Nonie Buencamino), a hunchbacked street vendor to gather pieces of details about Rodrigo’s whereabouts.

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During her surveillance, she also met with Hollanda (John Lloyd Cruz), an epileptic transgender drag queen who roves around the town for hasty sexual encounters. Like Horacia’s tattoos inside her clothes, Hollanda has his own mysterious persona behind the fancy dress, three-inch-heeled shoes, fake boobs and make-up. Their coincidental connection leads them to an event where they finally get their desired outcome. As a gesture of his gratitude for Horacia’s fading kindness, Hollanda gunned down Rodrigo which makes him confine in permanent gloom inside the prison. On the other hand, Horacia, after embracing undeserved darkness for a long time attained unexpected light in Hollanda’s murder of Rodrigo. However, she has to enter into another chapter of darkness as she moves to Manila and throw her luck to track her beloved son.

Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) was Lav Diaz’s one of the shortest yet most elaborate magnum opus to date. His way of writing Horacia’s journey can be compared to a heartbreaking literature: a compilation of real-life stories of a nation immortalized by fictional tales and deep poems.  Despite breaking his traditional slower-phased scenes that made his past films longer than traditional movies, he did not fail to pass on the same magic of realism and cinematic chiaroscuro in this almost 4-hour masterpiece. Some may criticize about Diaz’s continuity style but its unpredictable transfer from sequence to another makes the viewers adjust to the sudden change of emotions or mood of the story. He was able to sensibly integrate totally different eras, situations and perspectives when he applied Leo Tolstoy’s 1872 short story “God Sees The Truth But Waits” in a 1997 setting when the world was overwhelmed by events such as the historic Hong Kong turnover to China, the death of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa and the kidnapping crisis in the Philippines. With his flawless embroidery of Horacia’s journey, it seemed that the film becomes a more modern version of Diaz’s other critically-acclaimed film “Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis” (A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery) where history attempts to enlighten today’s society through realizations that people unintended or purposely ignore.

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The public already expected to see a different Santos-Concio here but she still surprised the world in her more powerful performance as Horacia. She perfectly showed the main character’s enigmatic personas as she shifts from a caring storyteller, a compassionate old woman to a night-time heroine, and vice versa. Her encounters with all the characters were significantly remarkable as it all helped the story progressed slowly but crystal clear. Truly, like how Cruz described her in an interview, there was no trace of the “Ma’am Charo, the media giant executive” that Filipinos of this generation used to see on TV. Through Diaz’s directorial guidance and prowess, Ang Babaeng Humayo successfully awakened Santos-Concio’s “sleeping dragon” inside her that once made her Asia’s best actress in 1977.

Meanwhile, Cruz did not disappoint everyone in his portrayal as a she-male – a first in his nearly two-decade acting portfolio. Like Santos-Concio, he exceeded cineastes’ expectations his stunning performance in Hele which won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival last February. Supporting casts led by Javier, Buencamino, de Mesa effectively represented Filipinos of different social classes which never changed from 1997 up to this day. They personified the common beliefs and doubts in God’s existence, how faith shapes a country’s collective psyche and how people live in a society that is controlled by money and false hope.

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While few media observers have seen Diaz’s collaboration with mainstream producers (Cinema One Originals, a film production outfit under a cable channel of ABS-CBN where Santos-Concio continues to serve as one of the top honchos) as threat to the very purpose of creating a platform for the real independent Filipino cinema, Ang Babaeng Humayo’s road to victory can actually be a great example of how liberal and traditional moviemakers should meet halfway to produce and/or promote a deserving work of art. Today, this successfully-crafted merger between the unconventional filmmaker and the powerful producer gave the Philippines its first Golden Lion trophy in the world’s oldest film festival, the Venice Film Festival. It is just a matter of harmonious negotiation and balanced interests, and surely, it will benefit not just the film but also the entire Philippine film industry that is trapped in a state where getting efficient government support in terms of funding and incentives remains a struggle.

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Title: ANG BABAENG HUMAYO
International Title: THE WOMAN WHO LEFT
Date of Release: SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 (PHILIPPINE PREMIERE)
Award: GOLDEN LION (BEST FILM), 73RD VENICE FILM FESTIVAL

Studio: SINE OLIVIA PILIPINAS and CINEMA ONE ORIGINALS
Director: LAV DIAZ
Writer: LAV DIAZ
Screenplay: LAV DIAZ
Executive Producers: RONALD ARGUELLES and LAVRENTE DIAZ

Cast:

HORACIA – CHARO SANTOS-CONCIO
HOLLANDA – JOHN LLOYD CRUZ
RODRIGO – MICHAEL DE MESA
KUBA – NONIE BUENCAMINO
MAMENG – JEAN JUDITH JAVIER
PETRA – SHARMAINE CENTENERA-BUENCAMINO
WARDEN – MAE PANER
MARJ LORICO

MAYEN ESTAÑERO
PAOLO RODRIGUEZ
ROMELYN SALE
CACAI BAUTISTA
JO-ANN ROQUIESTAS
JULIUS EMPREDO

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REVIEW | Honor Thy Father (Reality Entertainment, 2015)

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Grabbed from Honor Thy Father Facebook page

“What will a man do to save his family? You don’t want to know.”

Most of us trust religion as source of answers to our questions. Our faith dictates us that God is the key to achieve success or surpass complexities in our lives. We consider spiritual leaders as messengers of the Heaven and it is just to contribute money for the church’s “expansion”. Religion makes everyone believe that God will provide even in the midst of our hardest life struggles – but not for Edgar (John Lloyd Cruz).

He is not a firm believer of their religious group, the Church of Yeshua, as oppose to his wife Kaye (Meryll Soriano) who works as an agent for his father’s investment scheme business. Everything was in order for Edgar’s family until they face the most difficult, life-changing challenge that even the sect where they belong was not able to help them. Edgar needs to save Kaye and his only daughter Angel (Krystal Brimner) from this family crisis at all cost, even if it means danger and denunciation from their so-called faith.

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Erik Matti’s “Honor Thy Father” (also known as Con-Man) is a fresh entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) which has been dominated by comedy and horror films for over two decades. Following the success of his critically-acclaimed “On the Job” in 2013, Matti, along with writer Michiko Yamamoto crafted another masterpiece that elaborates the most critical issues today. The move by its studio (Reality Entertainment) and producers (Matti, Dondon Monteverde and Cruz) to screen a film that shows religion’s influence in the society during a religion-motivated holiday like Christmas was definitely courageous. However, the movie does not fail to relay a bold message that’s fit for the season – love for family. Camera angles are more into slow smooth panning shots and striking landscapes than shaky movements, manifesting calm aura in the midst of intense and nerve-racking scenes. The cinematography and lighting make us all feel the real ambiance of the Mountain Province and support the mood of every scene and emotions.

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Cruz, a first-timer in producing movies, in joining MMFF and in portraying a role of a father, is undoubtedly marvelous. His stint in this year’s film fest signals a new and exciting era in his career as an artist. Soriano’s impressive performance elevates her to another notch-up of acting excellence. We can actually call her the Philippine independent cinema’s “diamond star”, a moniker adorned to her aunt, actress Maricel Soriano. In addition, portrayals of supporting cast, specifically veteran actors Tirso Cruz III (Bishop Tony) and William Martinez (Pastor Obet) as church leaders are significant and indeed commendable.

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As of this writing, festival organizers disqualified “Honor Thy Father” for Best Picture and some malls are starting to pull it out in their theaters. For a movie that is timely, realistic and can give a sensible Christmas viewing experience, it is unfair for “Honor Thy Father” to seize its chance to make this generation’s filmmakers, film outfits and moviegoers realize that it’s time to revive the very purpose of MMFF’s creation: to showcase local cinema’s ingenuity in presenting the reality around our country.

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Title: HONOR THY FATHER
Date of Release: DECEMBER 25, 2015
Official Entry to the 41ST METRO MANILA FILM FESTIVAL

Studio: REALITY ENTERTAINMENT
Director: ERIK MATTI
Screenplay: MICHIKO YAMAMOTO
Story: ERIK MATTI and MICHIKO YAMAMOTO
Executive Producers: DONDON MONTEVERDE, ERIK MATTI and JOHN LLOYD CRUZ

 

Cast:

EDGAR – JOHN LLOYD CRUZ
KAYE – MERYLL SORIANO
ANGEL – KRYSTAL BRIMNER
BISHOP TONY – TIRSO CRUZ III
PASTOR OBET – WILLIAM MARTINEZ
NANANG – PERLA BAUTISTA
LANDER VERA PEREZ
YAYO AGUILA
DAN FERNANDEZ
KHALIL RAMOS
BOOM LABRUSCA
DALIN SARMIENTO

 

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REVIEW | PARA KAY B (Teatro Tomasino, 2015)

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Grabbed from Teatro Tomasino Facebook page

“Me quota ang pag-ibig. Sa bawat limang umiibig, iisa lang ang magiging maligaya.”

It was in 2008 when I first read “Para Kay B”, the first novel published by notable movie and television writer Ricky Lee. This served as my introduction to his life, his previous cinematic masterpieces and his fruitful wisdom on filmmaking and film writing. Since then, I become his avid fan and always making sure to attend film industry-related events where his works are exhibited.

I’ve read Para Kay B for many times and keep some of its most memorable scenes in my heart and in my mind. So when I learned that the novel will be adapted as a theater play, I couldn’t hide my excitement! I reserved a ticket online just hours after they first announced it in social media. Also fueled by curiosity, I wanted to personally experience how a university-based theater guild can translate my favorite book into life. I chose to watch the final run of the play (December 5, 2015, 7:00pm) because I believe that in any theater play, the last one will be the best of all their performances.

Staged inside University of Santo Tomas’ Albertus Magnus Auditorium on December 1-5, 2015, the theatrical adaptation of Lee’s novel was written by Eljay Castro Deldoc and produced by Teatro Tomasino for its 38th production year under the direction of Arch. Carlos A. Buendia, Jr. It is about five different women who struggled in the name of love. The complicated lives of Erica (Samantha Pizaro), Irene (Leah Zamoras), Sandra (Lyn Carol Garcia), Sara (Mitzi Tayer), Ester (Frances Bean Pan) and Bessie (Iris Montesclaros) are all tailored into five interconnected stories written by Lucas (Angel John Cuartero). He is a frustrated writer who loves collecting stories to prove his theory that in every five people who fell in love, only one will succeed and will become happier. While he writes using his own perspective, he used real people whom he personally encountered as characters to these stories. One of them is Bessie, a prostitute and the girl he admires.

Interestingly, the stage adaptation gave modern-day ambiance without compromising the essence of the novel’s original context. The incorporation of latest funny antics like “hugot” and Vice Ganda-type of humor made people laugh. While our society’s condition today is not that far from the book’s setting, Deldoc and Buendia successfully integrated Lee’s political and social viewpoint from the book to their idea of delivering the message of the story. It might be wrong though, but some people would compare the book to the stage play. For those who already read the book prior to the adaptation, they would notice that the stream of the story was quite different. What’s great here is that the production team flawlessly crafted its own flow and modified some parts, specifically in its ending. I guess it’s not because they just want to create their own version but to give an answer to Lucas’ love theory. This is, I think, their way of giving utmost respect to the author and to the book itself.

The simplicity of the stage design made sense to the entire play. Its curtains were designed to form a heart shape and a platform at the center that looked like the Rizal monument in Luneta. It gave its audience an impression that too much loving can make us “martyrs” who deserve a shrine like heroes. It was also remarkable that the heart opens when the main characters share memories or secrets and closes during love making scenes. The costumes served a bizarre role in the stage play because it did not only classify the importance of each role but also the behavior of each character. Its main characters wore yellow, female characters wore red, male characters wore blue and three actors who played as fathers (one ‘father’ was a priest) wore white. The use of lighting effects added thrill, fun and tension on stage. It helped the audience, especially those who already read the book to visualize the magic of the story in their very eyes. Natural sound effects did not utilize evenly in their respective scenes; however, the background music and soundtrack, mostly played using a string instrument (a violin, perhaps) intensified that roller coaster of emotions on the play’s entirety. Using videos as transition from one sequence to another was a good idea and somehow excites the audience to the next scene.

Most, or if not, all actors during the last stretch of the play performed very well. I just have to make special mentions to Chris Philip Abecia (Jake, Erica’s love interest), Frank Jozseph Escuadro (AJ, Ester’s gay son), and Montesclaros (Bessie). Aside from the fact that they made me laugh and crazy because of their punch lines, these actors definitely exceeded my expectations and gave me more appropriate images to these well-loved characters. Let me also commend the actors who professionally, artistically and discreetly performed their respective ‘daring scenes’ on stage. We can call them brave for doing that stuff inside their beloved school that is conservative and religious.

While the love theory remains a mystery to me after I watched it, Teatro Tomasino’s Para Kay B offered its viewers a choice to continue loving, reach the quota and be that one out of five. Before, I never envisioned this novel as a theater play because it is too magical for a live show. But being a fan of the book did not hinder me from trusting Teatro Tomasino like how Lee showed confidence in their artistry to make this happen. They did not fail me! It was more magical than I anticipated in mind and it was manifested by my fellow audience’s reactions inside the auditorium at that night. It was not ‘bitin’, but because of its huge success, I guess it needs a re-run. And YES, I will definitely watch it again like how I read the book again and again.

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Title: PARA KAY B
When: DECEMBER 5, 2015, 7:00PM
Where: ALBERTUS MAGNUS AUDITORIUM, UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS, MANILA

Based on the novel “PARA KAY B” by RICKY LEE
Produced by TEATRO TOMASINO
Written by ELJAY CASTRO DELDOC
Directed by ARCH. CARLOS A. BUENDIA, JR.

Artistic Director: MA. LOUIES PALAD
Professional Adviser/s: JONATHAN LAPUS and JOSE VICTOR Z. TORRES, Ph.D.

Production Manager/s: PATRICIA MARIE LEONARDO and JANNE PAULA VILLAFLOR
Production Designer: CLARISSE TERESA PROVIDO
Stage Manager: PAULA MAE SALVADOR
Technical Director: ROBERT YAM
Graphic Designer: MA. CHARISSE TIMTIMAN
Set and Props Head: KIM CHRISTINE FABABAIR
Lights Director/s: SHERYL ANNE FERNANDEZ and KEVIN PAUL BRYAN DELFIN
Sound Designer: CHELSEA JAN TAMAYO
Sounds Head: JASON ADRIAN MORCO
Costume and Makeup Mistress: EUDES ANTHONY GARCIA
Promotions and Marketing Head: MARIELE RIANNE TARNATE

 

Cast (in order of appearance):

LUCAS – ANGEL JOHN CUARTERO
BESSIE – IRIS MONTESCLAROS

IRENE – LEAH ZAMORAS
JORDAN – CHRISTIAN MIGUEL
FATHER ZUNIGA – JOVEN FRANCIS MORALES
NANAY – RELA JOISE CATUCOD
BRENDA – MAXINE LOUISE LAGMAN
SUSAN – CARYL PHILLINE MAY CATAN

SANDRA – LYN CAROL GARCIA
LUPE – CYRUS IVAN REYES
RUBEN – JENS RYAN YAP
NANAY – RELA JOISE CATUCOD
TATAY – JOVEN FRANCIS MORALES
BELINDA – KRISTIA KAM

MATANDANG BABAE – REENA JOYCE MEDINA
YAYA BLENDER – LELNA MAXINE GUTILBAN
ERICA – SAMANTHA PIZARO
MRS. BAYLON – NINA BELLE GAVAN
JAKE – CHRIS PHILIP ABECIA

ESTER – FRANCES BEAN PAN
AJ – FRANK JOZSEPH ESCUADRO
SARA – MITZI TAYER
PIO – SHINGLE TAIRA

BRIGS – KEVIN DELFIN
BARKADA – KIM FABABAIR, TRISTAN MARCO SACLAYAN and JOVEN FRANCIS MORALES

 

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