A Poem by Jude Bautista
Be famous the right way
Not for its own sake
There are those who do it
Through a sex tape
Be famous the right way
Never be in haste
One’s reputation is
Not a thing to waste
Be famous the right way
Not by killing people and
Calling yourself a leader
You can’t justify rape by
Who it is you murder
Be famous the right way
We’re all caught up in the now
We want the world to look
At us somehow
Search for an endeavor
That sparks a passion
Reach for the stars through
Sacrifice and hard work
And you will no longer
Seek fulfillment in the
Approval of others
For fame is fleeting,
Pray that you learn:
Finding and sharing your talent
Is a reward in itself
Written and photographed
by Jude Bautista
These are four talented, skillful individuals who won in the 9th Gawad Buhay Awards Night last May 10, 2017 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines:
Jef Flores-Male Lead Performance in a Musical
(TICK, TICK…BOOM from 9 Works Theatrical),
Menchu Lauchengco Yulo-Female Featured Performance in a Musical
(ANNIE- Resort’s World Manila/Full House Theater Company),
Myke Salomon-Outstanding Musical Direction
(3 Stars and a Sun from PETA) and
John Batalla-Outstanding Lighting Design
(ALMOST, MAINE from Repertory Philippines).
Fortunately for the public the amazing work by these four awardees can be seen in one currently running musical in GODSPELL. Children and fathers who want to make Mom happy can bring her to the show this Mother’s Day. GODSPELL has 8PM shows on May 6, 12, 13, 19 & 20. And there are 3PM shows on May 7, 14 & 21, all at the Carlos P Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza.
This is a very entertaining musical, which poses the question: is Christ’s work and deeds relevant in a chaotic modern world? Don’t let the subject matter intimidate it actually helps audiences understand the gospel and puts it into music that moves the very soul. Even kids are encouraged to watch.
Jef Flores is in the lead role as Jesus. Myke Salomon is both John the Baptist and Judas while winning an award as a Musical Director. Menchu Lauchengco Yulo shows her vocal range while being the Artistic Director in Resorts World Manila. The only non-actor among them is Lighting Director John Batalla whose work is literally seen throughout GODSPELL.
One might wonder how, the awards slipped past such a star-studded show, especially since this is the second run since last year. This is because the Gawad Buhay award is only given to productions of organizations that are members of PHILSTAGE. Perhaps this will help motivate MUSIC ARTES, the producers of GODSPELL to join PHILSTAGE in the future, soon hopefully. As anyone can see that this version is definitely worthy of a few awards.
PHILSTAGE members include:
9 Works Theatrical, Actor’s Actors Inc., Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, Culturtrain Musical Productions Inc., Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Full House Theater Company, Philippine Educational Theater Association, Philippine Ballet Theatre, Philippine Opera Company, Repertory Philippines, Red Turnip Theater, Stages, Tanghalang Pilipino, Trumpets
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
My nephew Jay Bautista and his lovely wife Linnel’s wedding last March here in the Philippines was an opportunity for family and friends to come from all over the world to join in the celebration. This is especially true of the bride’s family as well, Linnel’s brother Nathan and sisters (Debbie, Angela and Lilet) came from the U.S.. A great number of their family and friends have come from abroad.
My own brother Donald who is now based in Roswell, New Mexico for the past year has come back home with us. And two of my other brothers George and Noel have come from the cities of Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand.
Mother of the groom, Joy has a number of family who arrived: JC Mallonga with wife Bonnie Lou and children, John T Mallonga. John T has been in New York for the past 7 years without coming back until now.
Many other relatives have come from different parts of the world to share this momentous occasion. Since there were several dates of celebration and in between many more dinners and get togethers, a large amount of photos have accumulated.
Thank God for facebook, wordpress and even flickr I am able to post photos and share them with the people who have been kind enough to attend the celebrations. Special mention to our friends and schoolmates from St Peter the Apostle School who welcomed George almost on a yearly basis or as frequent as he is able to come back. We never take any of that for granted, as both George and I are alumni of SPAS.
My brother Timmy, the father of the groom also has a long list of people who helped organize the Conrad’s Reception and make it a resounding success. This post, the photos here are our own small way of thanking them and all of you.
These days we may find that distance and time may separate us from the people who matter to us. There are fewer and fewer opportunities to say ‘thank you’ and even ‘I love you’. We never get to express it enough, not even to each other in the family. So in these smiles we hope that you do see our gratitude and love for all of you.
Pat Dy with Henry Vergara and Videographer Dan Mendiola were the official photographers at Jay and Linnel’s wedding, March 2nd, 2017. Although I (Jude Bautista) am a photojournalist I was more of a pesky uncle just trying to capture some memories for the family and THIS blog. I took photos trying not to be too intrusive to Pat Dy and his team. I took some snapshots as Pat, Henry and Dan art directed the portraitures of the couple and the entourage while some of the coverage during the wedding was my own. I insisted on shooting the photos you see here no matter how unsolicited. This is my own gift for their celebration of love.
And apart from writing a short backgrounder I discovered there were a lot of touching speeches from the bride’s parents Nelson and Lilibeth De Villa and the groom’s parents Timothy and Joy Bautista and other family members. Their speeches are included below in full.
Jose Yldefonso Bautista and Leticia Linnel De Villa were made for each other. They met through their JS Prom attended by students from Poveda and Xavier (their high schools).
Both of them were successful and highly competitive in sports. Linnel was already a Junior golfer who competed internationally when they met. Golf was a passion she shared with her sisters Lilet, Debbie & Angel who also competed abroad and even trained in the U.S. Jay on the other hand was a bemedalled swimmer since his toddler years through to college.
Their love grew as they pursued studies abroad. Linnel attended California State University San Marcos while Jay went to Fordham. Although in different coasts they kept up their romance, with shared summer and Christmas vacations with each other’s families. Both of them now live and work in New York.
This year would be their 12th year as a couple. The first wedding ceremony was on September 9, 2016 in New York City Hall. The date also happens to be Linnel’s birthday. Then a beach wedding followed in Balesin Island, Philippines March 2nd, 2017. Finally a reception for family and friends here in Manila was held at Conrad’s March 5th, 2017.
The messages below were delivered on March 5th, 2017 during the Conrad’s reception.
Nelson De Villa (Father of the Bride)
Jay and Linnel’s love story is one for the books. They’ve been boyfriend girlfriend for 12 years since their high school days, almost 12 years. I remember Timmy and Joy invited us for lunch. And we were kind of surprised to have photographers. Its kind of family pictures and they weren’t engaged yet at the time. So I was thinking what if they split up? We already have this pre nup arrangement.
After that get together even the parents felt they would get married. So this is a series of celebrations. First was in New York, where they were civilly married. We waited in a long line, more than the ceremony itself. Probably the ceremony lasted for just ten minutes. We didn’t have time to cry at the time.
Unlike in Balesin you will see in the video you will see me crying. Now in Conrad’s this is a bigger celebration. And after this is the best part, waiting for the apo. I wish Jay and Linnel many kids. I thank everyone for coming, new friends. This is indeed a very good celebration.
Lilibeth De Villa (Mother of the Bride)
For JY and Linnel I would just keep on repeating what I’ve been saying, the advice that was given to me by my mom when I got married: To love respect your in laws as your very own. That’s the same for JY as for all the lovable family. We would like to thank Tim and Joy for this celebration.
Actually I was kind of sad, I was thinking that this will be the last time after a series. We’re so happy we’ve met you family, friends and relatives of JY. When JY asked permission from us it wasn’t that difficult for me to say ‘yes’ because I know Linnel is so well loved by the Bautistas. JY is so well loved by our family too. He is and will forever be our favorite son in law. We have four girls and one boy. He will always be the first son in law. We love you JY!
Nathan De Villa (Bride’s Only Brother)
Good evening everyone I am Nathan De Villa. I am the youngest and only brother of Ate Linnel. I am here to not only give my first speech at a wedding but also my first ever brother of the bride speech. I can tell you right now it is a weird, new but electrifying feeling. Let me start off by congratulating the newlyweds who finally tied the knot. So please give them a round of applause.
From Poveda, Xavier, San Diego and New York, getting married in New York, getting married in Balesin, finally we’re here at Conrad’s. On behalf of the Bautista and De Villa family I would like to sincerely thank everyone who came here who shared this memorable life event with us. Most especially thank you to the Titos and Titas, Ninongs and Ninangs and the rest of the relatives who flew all the way from around the world just for ate Linnel and JY.
Ate Linnel, growing up you know we were never really physically close to each other. when we both lived in the Philippines we studied in different schools. When I moved to the States, you moved from California to New York. I was in California so obviously we weren’t together. We never really grew up with each other. I felt like we were just side-by-side.
Over the years I realized how truly caring and loving you are as a person. For instance whenever ates and I, mom and dad, JY are trying to help you with a hectic problem in New York or just a simple chore at home, I notice how you always ask how we are doing first.
Building up to this wedding I know you were going through so much stressful things at work, New York, China or I don’t even know. Sometimes I can’t keep up with it any more. The point is whatever problem you’re dealing with you always message, snapchat and face time us, its like we’re the ones who have a problem.
All your life you’ve always been a selfless and loving person. That’s something you’re going to carry forward even more I guarantee it.
JY all my life whenever people ask me ‘how many siblings do you have?’. I have four older sisters, which makes me the youngest and only boy. But tonight finally that’s going to change. I’ve always wondered what it was like to have an older bro. You know with ate Linnel now God bless me would not just be an older bro but a confident, witty, hilarious and strangely amusing Kuya JY. I’d also want to give a shout out to Alfonso Bautista, where are you?
Set aside the times when you were overly competitive in FIFA and basketball. I am 99.9999 percent sure that you are the best man on this earth to best take care of my beautiful, loving, caring, selfless Ate Linnel. So I really do appreciate you JY. And I am so happy to be part of your humble and adoring family. Once again I love you Ate Linnel, JY another big congratulations.
Tim Bautista (Father of the Groom)
Before anything else, please allow me to make a clarification. There is no truth to the rumor that Mr. Jaime ‘Jimmy’ Bautista, President of Philippine Airlines is my relative. Fortunately through Nelson and Lilibeth, Jimmy is now Godparent to JY and Linnel and my kumpadre! Let’s please give a warm round of applause for Mr. Jimmy Bautista.
Good evening everyone and welcome to the post wedding celebration of Linnel and JY. Your presence tonight deeply warms our hearts and makes our families very, very happy.
Thank you so much to the relatives and friends of the De Villas you are now all of our friends too! Bigyan po natin ng isang masigabong palakpakan ang mga De Villas and their guests. Maraming, maraming salamat po to our guests sa Bautista side.
To all principal sponsors of JY and Linnel, to our dear relatives and friends who are based both here and abroad, To my bosses and colleagues at Cable Boss and OMI,
To all our friends in the Philippine Cable TV Association and program providers from HBO, Fox Network Group, Turner International, Vision Plus, MCI Outdoor, ViaCom, NBC Universal, A and E, I-Concerts, Thema, Sony and Cinemaworld
To our Mary the Queen parish Community, To our Jesuit Friends from the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, To our friends from the Christian Life Community and CBCP, To Joy’s batchmates from St. Paul’s College , To my batchmates from De La Salle University and St. Jude Catholic School
To Clara Roura, Che Carasig, Sig Aromin, the fantastic musicians, the management and staff of Conrad Hotel and all those who have helped us make this occasion enjoyable and memorable. And of course more importantly to the friends of JY and Linnel
To all of you our sincerest gratitude for sharing with us this beautiful day!
Joy is a very loving wife! She is an even more devoted and hands on mother to our only child JY. After spending over twelve years at Xavier School in Manila it was time for JY to enter university at Fordham in New York. Joy as expected, assiduously made sure everything was in order and accompanied JY to New York for the first two weeks of his studies. When Joy eventually returned to Manila, all her attention was now focused on me. (laughter)
I had to think of a solution, fast! So even if I did not like dogs I got her a cute and frisky Jack Russell Terrier. I soon loved that dog! I loved that dog so much I got Joy two more.
Let’s flashback to the day JY was born. It was around 4am when Joy’s water broke. After I brought Joy to the hospital and she was settled in at the delivery room. I went to the assigned room where Joy will recuperate after the birth. I quickly discovered that hospital beds could really be comfortable and soon fell asleep.
At around 9am, my mother in law woke me up, telling me excitedly my wife was about to give birth. I told her “Sorry Ma, I am not the obstetrician” and went back to sleep. My mother in law did not talk to me for two weeks. I did not know then whether to be happy or sad. I love my Mother in law, God Bless her soul.
I guess it’s quite a different experience to have an only child.
With greater seriousness we would closely observe every word and action of JY, especially during the first seven years of his life. We hoped that we could somehow get glimpses or clues on what qualities this boy will have. Early on we knew that JY will be a survivor. The first word that he spoke was “Mama”. I really thought his second would be “Papa”. It was “Milk”. JY gave indications that he would be ambitious. At age threehe was asked what he wanted to be when grows up. He said he wanted to be Batman.
JY was four years old when he joined his first swimming competition. He proved he was a team player. He was way ahead of the other swimmers when he suddenly stopped in the middle of the pool. We were all wondering why he did that until we saw him swim again when his team mate caught up with him. He later told us he really wanted to finish together with his buddy.
When the car of JT, my brother in law broke down while parked in our home, JY gave us a hint that he was a resourceful kid. He was five at that time, He asked JT what was wrong. JT said it won’t start. “Uncle JT I will help you. Let me call my dad.” “ Why is your dad good with cars?” JY answered “ No, he does not know anything about cars! I will ask my dad to go with me to call our neighbor who knows how to fix cars!”
JY was six when he was a ring bearer for a wedding. He showed signs that he will be very self confident and creative. During the rehearsals, he followed instructions to the letter and he walked formally and with cadence with the music. On the day of the wedding, when it was his turn to walk he went jogging instead towards the altar. We asked why he did that. He said the whole thing seemed boring and he wanted the event to be more exciting.
JY always wants to be prepared. Fast forward to time when JY was about fourteen. He told us he that wanted to play the guitar. I asked him, “Why are you courting somebody?”. He said, “No, not yet but I soon will.”
The following year he told us that he needed money for golf lessons. We asked if the girl he is courting was a golfer. He said, “Not only is she a golfer, she plays for the Philippine JunGolf Team and she has made a hole-in-one”. I took out my wallet and gave JY double the amount for a lot more golf training.
And true enough after about a few golf lessons Joy and I met Linnel for the first time. From hindsight I don’t think JY inherited too much of my genes. Obviously he has a little bit more hair than I have. Whereas JY is tall dark and handsome, I am pale skinned, not so tall but handsome too.
Fortunately, JY got the most important trait that I could ever pass on to him. We both know how to choose our perfect partner for life. JY, your mom and I are so proud of the man you have become. Please know that you have given us much more happiness than whatever we have shared with you.
Through the years Joy and I have grown to realize and appreciate why Linnel’s name is so appropriate for her. She possesses the best qualities of both her parents, her mom Lilibeth, the ‘Li’ in Linnell and her dad Nelson the ‘Nel’ in Linnel. Obvious ba?
Linnel is charming, beautiful, extroverted, meticulous, thoughtful and caring like her mom, Doctora Lilibeth. Linnel is goal oriented, business minded, purposeful and kindhearted like her dad Nelson. Like both her parents, Linnel is God fearing, religious, athletic, humble and family oriented.
Joy and I look with happy expectation that JY and Linnel will have a long and blissful life together because they always laugh out loud in unison and they zestfully laugh at each other.
And I know for sure Linnel will be a great daughter in law.
You know why? Because she always laughs at my jokes. Sometimes, even when they are not so funny.
As parents all we want is the best for our kids. Linnel and JY, as you begin this next exciting chapter of your lives, please be assured of our unwavering love and support.
As you learn both the pleasant and challenging realities of living together and raising your own kids, always place our good Lord at the center of your family and never take each other for granted.
As your love for each other grows, please continue to keep your hearts open to generously share your talents and blessings to make the world better than when you first entered it.
Finally and most importantly in your relationship with each other be patient and persevere. Expect that things may not always turn out the way you want them to and cheerfully accept the fact that your partner may be right sometimes.
And when all else fails buy dogs for each other maybe even two.
For more photos log on to:
For those who love me
Mia (Emma Stone) stopped Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in his tracks with what she said next. Mia: We might as well get this out of the way–I hate jazz… You ok? He immediately takes her to a smoky jazz club. Seb: It’s just that when people say they hate jazz they don’t have context. They don’t know where it comes from. Jazz was born in a little flophouse in New Orleans. People were crammed in there spoke five different languages. The only way they could communicate was with jazz.
Mia: But what about Kenny G? What about elevator music? You know jazz music that I know? Seb: What about it? Mia: I find it relaxing. Seb: It’s not relaxing. It’s not. It’s not. Sidney Bechet shot somebody because he was told he played a wrong note. It’s hardly relaxing. Mia: In where I grew up there’s this station called KJAZZ 103. People just put on that station when they had a cocktail party. And everyone would just talk over it.
Seb: I know I think that’s part of the problem. You have to hear it. You have to see what’s at stake. Look at the sax player he just hijacked the song. He’s in his own trip. Every one of these guys they’re composing they’re rearranging. They’re writing and playing the melody. Now look the trumpet player he has his own idea. It’s conflict and its compromise. Its new every time. It’s brand new every night. It’s very, very exciting. And it’s dying. It’s dying Mia. And the world says let it die. It had its time. Not on my watch.
Mia and Seb at first glance aren’t remarkable people. What they do have in common is that they live for their dreams. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with them when you see their eyes light up talking about their passions.
Mia is obsessed with old Hollywood. She sleeps under the gaze of Ingrid Bergman whose image is the size of her bedroom wall. Her love for movies inspired her to become an actress. Meanwhile she’s a barista at the Warner Brothers lot, which has a lot of film history.
Sebastian or Seb for short is an extremely talented musician but is having a hard time making ends meet. He finds difficulty in compromising his art and passion for jazz. There’s a huge gap between what he wants to do and the music that he’s paid to play in his gigs.
Hollywood isn’t just about fame and fortune, although it doesn’t hurt having them. LA LA LAND shows that Hollywood is still about having a dream and going after it against all odds. Theirs is the struggle of thousands of Angelenos, dreamers searching for that big break. That’s why the story is so inspiring and entertaining in the most classical sense. They made old Hollywood come alive and relevant in a magical way. They harkened to a time when musicals were king and was considered the best way to tell the story. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and the recently passed Debbie Reynolds would be proud of the song and dance work in LALALAND.
Featurette- homage to Musicals – filmaker’s own words
Millennials who are not able to relate with Hollywood’s glory days are given a lyrical and eloquent introduction. Hopefully they’re infected with the same passion that Mia grew up with and was inspired by. After all movies like CASABLANCA, BRINGING UP BABY and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE are now just a YouTube click away.
Vocals and Choreography
It’s hard not to fall in love with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. They have that combination of adorable and sexy as a couple. Their previous rom com CRAZY STUPID LOVE with Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore was a hilarious hit. They were also a pair for period film GANGSTER SQUAD. Gosling though, could be seen more as the top romantic lead after THE NOTEBOOK with Rachel McAdams.
Their vocals weren’t spectacular but were definitely moving. Neither of them may not necessarily be the next Luciano Pavarotti nor even to the level of co-star and executive producer John Legend. But both of them sang with such sincerity that audiences can’t help but be drawn to their performances. There’s the longing in CITY OF STARS by Gosling and heartfelt AUDITION (The Fools Who Dream) by Emma Stone. Of course John Legend had his stellar START A FIRE performed in a huge concert scene.
START A FIRE performed by John Legend
Where Gosling truly shines is his newly acquired skill on the piano. He trained for 3 months and called it “his most fulfilling pre-production experience”. John Legend (known for his piano playing) in turn also had to learn the electric guitar as Keith.
Ryan and Emma also excelled in the dance portions with choreography that paid homage to the sequences from SINGING IN THE RAIN and other classics. The sequence in A LOVELY NIGHT where it was just Mia & Seb during sunset was memorable although not as complex as the others.
A LOVELY NIGHT
Mandy Moore Cameo?
There was some confusion when Writer Director Damien Chazelle credited Mandy Moore as choreographer during his Best Director acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. It turns out that their choreographer Mandy Moore is the (exact) namesake of the pop star. Mandy, the actress/singer, is currently starring in the TV show THIS IS US. She also had a concert here in EASTWOOD CITY MALL (Quezon City, Philippines) last 2008. Her hits include: I WANNA BE WITH YOU, CRY and performed the official soundtrack I SEE THE LIGHT for Disney’s TANGLED.
The choreographer / professional dancer Mandy Moore is no slouch having worked on SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, AMERICAN HUSTLE, JOY and TV shows SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and DANCING WITH THE STARS. She is one of many creative people like composer/ film scorer Justin Hurwitz, lyricists Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and cinematographer Linus Sandgren who have made LALALAND the award winning film that it is. Screenwriter and director Damien Chazelle also wrote the lyrics for the song IT HAPPENED AT DAWN.
Almost throughout the movie Mia goes from one dehumanizing audition after another. Although the story celebrates the history and glory of Hollywood, it also sheds light on some the negative aspects. The challenge of the audition is something that all performers go through. Lili Tomlin during her acceptance speech for Screen Actors Guild -Lifetime Achievement, said she’d accept any part as long as she didn’t have to audition. That same night Emma Stone won for Best Actress; it was one of several for her and Ryan Gosling.
LA LA LAND is one of the favorites in the upcoming Oscars after earning 14 nominations. They’ve nearly swept every major category in the GOLDEN GLOBES: Best Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Actor – Ryan Gosling, Best Actress – Emma Stone, Best Director / Best Screenplay Damien Chazelle, Best Original Song – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Pau and Best Musical Score- Justin Hurwitz. The number of trophies from International and U.S. based awards are too many to mention such as the Director’s Guild of America etc. listed here.
Film History & L.A. Landmarks
In one of the early scenes, her friends in a late night party abandon Mia and she has to make her way home by herself. She passes by a mural and the camera reveals the faces of screen legends albeit in a humorous way: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, child star Shirley Temple sits on the lap of W.C. Fields (who reportedly hated children). The wall Mia passes is a real location: YOU ARE THE STAR MURAL on 1648 Wilcox Ave and Hollywood Boulevard. Artist Thomas Suriya completed it in 1983 and was restored by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles in 1995.
Production designer Dave Wasco encapsulated the emphasis on location and history when he said, “It was an opportunity to do a movie about a place we deeply loved”. Dave along with wife Sandy Reynolds-Wasco has already won Best Production Design for LA LA LAND from the Art Director’s Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Florida Film Critics Circle Awards and Georgia Film Critics Association along with a nomination in the Oscars and BAFTA.
There are so many ways that Chazelle honors the past, the places that Mia & Seb visit around L.A. are landmarks that have been made famous by the movies. There’s the Griffith Observatory (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, THE TERMINATOR, TRANSFORMERS), The Light House Café where they shot the jazz club scene is near Hermosa Beach and was made famous by Miles Davis. Check out the list with photos of film locations made by Conde Nast Traveller here.
After more than a century of filmmaking, Hollywood is still a city of dreamers that can still make you fall in love. As Mia sings in Audition (The Fools Who Dream)–
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays
And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make
AUDITION (The Fools Who Dream)
Leo Selomenio (addresses a crowd of Filipino maids): Wag niyong isipin katulong lang ako binabayaran lang ako ng amo ko. Nandito ako dahil may sahod akong dollar may ipapadala ako sa Pilipinas. It’s not that. Isipin ninyo sa sarili ninyo manager kayo! Syempre ako nag mamanage ng bahay ng amo ko. Bakit kayo hindi? O? Tatawa sila. Bakit kinahihiya mo trabaho mo? Sabihin mo muna manager ka. Siyempre titignan ka niya from head to foot. Oo may nakasabay ako sa eroplano. Anong ginagawa mo sa Hong Kong? Manager. Manager? Manager ka ng ano? Manager ako ng amo ko. O tinapat ko nga i-phone ko ha! Manager? Tapos tinignan niya ko from head to foot.
(Don’t think of yourselves as mere helpers. You’re here just for your salary to send back home. It’s not that. Think of yourselves as managers. Of course I manage my employer’s household. Don’t you do the same? They laugh at me. I met someone on the plane and asked my job. Tell them you’re a manager. They look at me from head to foot. You’re a manager? Yes I manage the affairs of my employer. Then I whip out my i-phone. Then they look at me from head to foot.)
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is a touching love letter to all mothers, sisters, aunts anyone who has sacrificed something to make us who we are. When you think about it, it’s for every Filipino, for any parent and child, family in the world. It will make you want to hug every woman in your life.
Directed by Babyruth Villarama Gutierrez, it is the only documentary to ever win BEST PICTURE in the history of the Metro Manila Film Fest Awards. It also garnered BEST EDITING- Chuck Gutierrez, GATPUNO ANTONIO J. VILLEGAS CULTURAL AWARD, CHILDREN’S CHOICE along with SAVING SALLY and VINCE & KATH & JAMES.
It’s a story we’re all familiar with regardless of race. There’s someone a mother, an aunt, a sister, a father, a provider who sacrifices themselves so we can go to school, have food to eat, clothes on our back. They are stories that don’t attract million-dollar blockbuster excitement, its not necessarily Gal Gadot of WONDER WOMAN or Hugh Jackman as LOGAN for 2017. More often than not they are the people we take for granted and not really think about.
We feel and see the ‘sacrifice’ through the experiences of Leo Selomenio (Science Education Graduate), Rudelie Acosta (IT Graduate), Mylyn Jacobo (AB English Graduate), Hazel Perdido (Computer Science Graduate) and Cherrie Mae Bretaña (Hotel Management Graduate).
They are all Overseas Filipino Workers who work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong but have found meaningful activity during Sundays. Leo is an organizer of pageants and other events specifically for Filipina OFWs since 2008. The rest of the subjects are the candidates. The pageants are held only on Sunday as their one free day in the week.
We go through their typical day, hear their stories and even hear from their employers. As you can see from their college degrees they’re actually overqualified for the position of domestic helper. That doesn’t protect them from experiencing verbal abuse from their employers or looked down upon even by their own countrymen. Even as the government hails our OFWs Overseas Filipino Workers as modern day heroes, other Filipinos sometimes look down on domestic helpers.
Just like the joke that Leo shares above, SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN isn’t just a tearjerker but more of an inspirational journey. We see that they cope with loneliness through mutual support, performances and yes beauty pageants.
Ju-Chen Chen, an Anthropologist at the University of Hong Kong was at first puzzled at their efforts, time and passion for these activities even after an exhausting workweek. Chen witnessed firsthand the camaraderie during an event.
She discovered that they literally carry the Philippine flag through the performances of cultural dances, pageants and concerts. There are elaborate costumes, choreography. They are proud bearers of Filipino identity. Chen realized that the fulfillment they get is far greater than their day-to-day difficulties. Through their gatherings, performances, they find a greater sense of self worth. In the face of stressful or often discriminatory work environment, they take the one-day they should have for themselves and still find the energy to put on a show for others.
There’s no doubt that domestic helpers in Hong Kong have a vital role. Long time TV producer Jack Soo was interviewed and said, “I live alone by myself. Mylyn is the only one taking care of me in my daily life…Let me tell you something. IF Hong Kong has no foreign helpers Hong Kong will be in trouble. Just imagine those family without a foreign helper. How are they gonna work how will they take care of their children? How are they going to do their daily lives? So if the Philippine government stop all the helpers in all of the country, the whole world will be in big trouble without helpers. There’s a big problem.”
Not everyone though has a glowing opinion of foreign domestic helpers. In April of 2015, Executive Councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee made some derogatory comments against Filipina domestic helpers accusing them of seducing their employers. The comments on her blog and official facebook page were particularly painful knowing the abuse that a majority of foreign domestic helpers endure. Some of them have even suffered physical and sexual abuse. For Filipinas who sacrifice so much this is has the potential to damage their familial relationships back home.
The issue came up in the Q&A portion in one of the pageants. Mylyn Jacobo very ably replied: “It’s a big insult to us that most Filipina OFWs are called prostitutes. I will cite something what Mrs. Regina Ip told us. We Filipino domestic helpers are working here to provide the needs and support our families in the Philippines. Whatever you do abroad you should think twice.”
2 Week Rule
Documentaries put important issues to the forefront because viewers see real people in real situations not actors. In this case it’s the policies of the HK SAR concerning domestic helpers. This affects not just the DH themselves but their wards, the elderly not to mention their own families back home reliant on the money they earn.
Discrimination against foreign domestic helpers is built into the system. A clear example is what happened to Rudelie Acosta. After one of the pageants she was late coming back to her employer and went over her curfew hours. She was fired on the spot and was asked to leave the only lodgings that she had. Even after pleading to at least spend the night her employer refused and kicked her out without a roof over her head. On top of this she only has 2 weeks to find another employer or lose the right to stay in Hong Kong.
Although the termination was abrupt and unfair, because of the 2-week rule there’s almost no recourse to file a complaint and immediately find a new job. Rudelie’s case is an example of the unfairness and injustice that thousands of foreign domestic helpers find themselves in Hong Kong.
Different foreign workers associations of Indians, Indonesians, Thais, Malaysians, Nepalese, of course Filipinos have banded together to formally complain against the 2 Week Rule since the late 1990s. But HK SAR has stuck to its guns allowing this discriminatory and racist policy to continue.
A comprehensive article entitled Maid in Hong Kong: Protecting Foreign Domestic Workers explained clearly how the 2 week rule is unjust: “Beyond cramped housing conditions, isolation of domestic workers means that abuses by employers often go unreported. A 2013 survey conducted by another Hong Kong-based group, Mission for Migrant Workers, found that 58 percent of the more than 3,000 workers surveyed experienced verbal abuse in the home, 18 percent physical abuse, and 6 percent sexual abuse.”
The report continues, “Another policy, the “two-week rule,” mandates that once foreign domestic workers quit or are let go, they must depart Hong Kong within two weeks. This policy, critics say, discourages domestic workers from seeking justice, for fear they could lose their jobs. It also makes finding a new employer difficult, as this process can take from four to six weeks. Moreover, a visa extension, the length of which varies by case, costs HK $190 (US $24), and during the extension application period migrants cannot work and must pay for their housing and food. Many domestic workers, therefore, choose to stay silent about abuses.”
Interestingly enough a possible solution also came from one of the victimized helpers in the documentary. She theorized that no less than our own Philippine government along with other nations like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and others should negotiate in behalf of their workers with the Hong Kong authorities to abolish the 2 Week Rule.
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is another meaningful and significant creative contribution from executive producers Vincent R. Nebrida, Fernando Ortigas and E.A. Rocha. These are the same executive producers who brought us the historical hit HENERAL LUNA and the enchanting KANA THE DREAMWEAVER. In a short period of time they have established a winning track record of award winning and critically acclaimed films.
Director Babyruth Villarama’s loving and supportive husband Chuck Gutierrez is both Producer and Editor. Chuck has added yet another BEST EDITING award from the MMFF to his wins in Cinemalaya, Cinema One and many others.
Dexter Dela Peña as cinematographer also deserves credit in being able to make everyday scenes more cinematic. Even though it was a run and gun style we were able to see the character of the city and more importantly the beauty of the contestants. Babyruth must have also handled the secondary camera. The trio of Babyruth, Dexter and Chuck have already been together for several projects including JAZZ IN LOVE another documentary that was part of Cinemalaya in 2013.
Watching SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is so enriching and educational in so many ways and levels. There are many touching moments between the families that helpers literally care for. Employers address Leo as ‘he’ even if he is biologically a woman. They see him as who he is, as a person. If you bring every family member, every maid, yaya, kusinera, labandera to this movie you will all come out richer for it. Respect and kindness truly goes a long way.
Leo uses the earnings from the pageants to help domestic helpers who were abused and need emergency assistance. In truth he has given those who participate in them and even those who watch something more valuable. He has given them a chance to see and feel the beauty they have. You can see the pride in the costumes, dances, unique to their provinces and hometowns in the Philippines. This pride extends not just to participants but to the audiences as well.
My Delicate, my artist, you are the best of me.
Marty (Enzo Marcos): The girl is stolen by a band of monsters who keep her in an impenetrable fortress, enslave her and keep her from her birthright. She thinks her only way out is marrying this monster prince. Coz she feels that living with one monster is better than to live in a fortress full of them. All this time the boy plots her rescue. Toto the Publisher (Peejo Pilar): Well… Marty: So it’s a fantasy. Toto: It’s a love story. Marty: You hate it. Toto: No I don’t I haven’t cried this much since Optimus Prime died in Transformers the movie, the animated one ok?
Marty: You’re not crying. Toto: I weep inside. Marty: This story just came to me. You know? Toto: OK, OK visually its good. It’s surreal and light at the same time. I love the hero and the fact that he is flawed. He’s skinny…(looks at Marty) The girl is a victim of circumstance. She makes good of what she can. It’s just that love stories’ not the path I was headed. Marty: I know you wanted mayhem, war, chaos… Toto: Yes!
Marty: Isn’t that what love is all about?
SAVING SALLY is pretty much summed up in the dialogue above between Marty (Enzo Marcos) and his comic book publisher Toto (Peejo Pilar). The story is basically a love story but the way it is told is vastly different from any other made in the Philippines, certainly from any other entry in the MMFF (at least for 2016).
SAVING SALLY combines animation, both 2D and 3D with live action with elements of sci-fi and fantasy. This ‘film’ is the perfect example of the 180-degree turn of the Metro Manila Film Fest to give other, newer, creative minds, filmmakers a chance to tap into that lucrative Christmas market. More importantly it allows the vast majority of our kababayan to see in this case a work where a multitude of different artists like illustrators, animators, comic book artists-sketchers, painters, all come together to tell a story that anyone can relate to.
Everyone from Pixar, production places in Singapore, Korea and the U.S. even France are all aware of the talent of Filipinos in animation. In fact the producers are French: Alain De la Mata, Herve Pennequin, Catherine Jacques. These countries tap into our rich talent pool in their studios.
Oscar & Golden Globe winning INSIDE OUT (Best Animated Feature) co written and directed by Pinoy Ronnie Del Carmen with Phil Docter is only the most recent example. It’s our own audiences here who have yet to appreciate our animators, with a story and production that’s 100% Pinoy.
We can safely proclaim that SAVING SALLY has changed all that with the glowing reception by fans at the MMFF and showcasing the talent we have in animation and the excellence of the cast. The sacrifice of director Avid Llongoren over a decade to complete this dream project has been rewarding. From a short story by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, Carlo Ledesma helped Avid Llongoren develop the screenplay. There were 2 reshoots, re casting and other problems. Anna Larrucea was originally cast as Sally.
Back in 2011, PINTAKASI produced by Gov. Imee Marcos was part of the New Wave category of the MMFF. It was a film that also combined live action with animation. That was more action oriented with monsters, demons, heroes battling it out. If you can imagine it also cast the best hip-hop dance crew in this side of the world: The Phil All Stars. The problem being it was only screened in very few cinemas and for about 3 days–total. Coming from that we see how the full exposure and support of SAVING SALLY as part of the main competition of the MMFF is beneficial to everyone concerned.
SAVING SALLY has attracted the younger audiences from kids to teens and has had relatively better commercial success. More Filipinos now have the chance to see the work of our celebrated animators. We know we have the talent, the dearth has been content, the will to create an audience for it and that’s what the MMFF has done this year.
Rhian Ramos as Sally is the perfect girl every man can fall for but even more so for every teenage geek. She is a comic book artist. She is not only obsessed with gadgets she makes them too. Sally almost fits Rhian to a tee except for the inventing gadgets part. Mr. Avid was very lucky in being able to get someone in her caliber of an actress. She’s young enough to be convincing as a teenager and yet experienced enough as an actress to portray the more complex scenes. Rhian seems to enjoy the challenge of unconventional roles that she has told GMANews of her intentions to add more indie projects for 2017.
Her adoptive parents played by Shamaine Buencamino and Archie Adamos abuse Sally both verbally and physically. We’re all familiar with Shamaine Buencamino who has done it all from lead roles to villains from TV to theater. It is Archie Adamos who seems almost unrecognizable as an upper-class terror of a father. He cleans up very well and was very convincing. He’s played a lot of bad guy parts but never in a role as big as this and gave a great account of himself. The conflict for Sally is something not expected in an animated piece. But delivering the message of how and why violence against women (VAW) is wrong is relevant more than ever.
Producers may have felt that with the casting of Rhian Ramos, she’s enough of a box office draw (which turned out to be correct). They could take a risk with newcomer Enzo Marcos. The experiment has proven to be successful. Viewers understand how Enzo’s character Marty is so in love with Sally and how he is so insecure and fearful of declaring his love for her. They both have an obsession for anime, comics, alternative film,music and the like.
Marty is the more skilled comic book artist and is looking to make it a career even before graduating art school. Sally is better at conceptualizing and making gadgets that make her life easier like improvised telescopic goggles, robot arms that iron clothes and scare off bullies.
Enzo very easily portrays Marty because they both have a creative mind. Enzo is a filmmaker who has produced music videos for Pinoy super bands KJWAN and GREYHOUNDZ, apart from being a musician himself. He has also directed TV commercials for international brands. So the need to express himself through his art, through images is something that he can fully relate to.
Enzo has also produced an interesting web series on YouTube featuring artists, performers and thinkers called MANILA REGARDLESS. Casting Enzo as Marty is very natural since he lives in that world of artists in different media. Both Marty and Sally use their love for comics, cartoons and fantasy as a way to escape their problems.
Carme Sanchez & Bodjie Pascua
Carme Sanchez is the loving mother to Marty. She can’t help but be excited about the prospect of Marty having Sally as his first girlfriend. Bodjie Pascua on the other hand is the senior geek of the family. His field of expertise is slot car racing (it’s the matchbox sized cars that go around in plastic tracks). If the movie is to be believed there is a community of racers right here in the Philippines. Dad may not be an expert in love but just like his famous TV character Kuya Bodjie, he has a lot of wisdom to impart to our unlikely hero Marty.
Visually there’s a lot going on in each scene. There are weird monsters walking by. These are bullies, villains that oppress ordinary folk like Marty. In his mind they’re monsters. Then there are the colorful animated backgrounds from skies, carnivals to the dark castle of a house Sally lives in. Responsible for the look are Lead Visual Artists Jether Amar and Jethro Razo. Credited as Supporting Art Ninjas: Peyer Raphael Mutuc, April Fonda and Joshua Tata Selo Panelo. I’m sure there are other artists that participated. These are only the tip of the iceberg that deserves praise and congratulations.
Then there’s the production side that fill the gap between animation and live action. They are crucial in making the illusion that real people can interact with animation. These are: cinematographers Rommel Sales, Odyssey Flores, Production Designers Rocketsheep Studio, Rommel Laquian and Erik Manalo and Sound master Joshua Cantillon. Director Avid learned the hard way that hard drives could crash and destroy one’s hard work (Part of the reason the project took more than 10 years). Enter I.T. Warrior Hermie Cabrito to ensure, this no longer happens.
All of these talented, hard working people have come together to drive home the idea in SAVING SALLY. And that is if you love someone you should never pass up the opportunity of showing it. As difficult it is to see, the rewards always outweigh the risk. You never know what may happen to prevent you from being with that person. From that enduring Alfred Lord Tennyson quote: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”