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Ricky Lee’s ‘Himala’ book launched at Shang Cineplex

MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – After 30 years or so, the best-selling author Ricky Lee launched his latest book titled ‘Sa Puso ng Himala’ on Thursday, December 4, at Shang Cineplex lobby, Shangri-La Plaza Mall-EDSA.

Nora Aunor as Elsa is seen on the cover of Ricky Lee's 'Sa Puso ng Himala' coffee table book. Image courtesy of Philippine Writers Studio Foundation (PWSF).

Nora Aunor as Elsa is seen on the cover of Ricky Lee’s ‘Sa Puso ng Himala’ coffee table book. Image courtesy of Philippine Writers Studio Foundation (PWSF).

According to Ricky Lee, “It was a very difficult book to put together but the response made it all worth it.”

He added that in less than a month after they announced it on the social network site—facebook, they received more than 900 reservations for the hardbound edition. Some pre-orders even came from as far as Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, Japan, and even more.

The concept was thought about when ABS-CBN Film Archive was coming out with the restored version of the film aside from the documentary on its making, Lee said, “Why not come out with a memorabilia book?

“Eventually the book became a peek into the 30-year journey of the film.”

The coffee table book features the full screenplay of ‘Himala’ with an English translation, interviews with Superstar Nora Aunor (who depicts faith-healer Elsa in the movie and was known for her performance in the said film), and everyone involved in the production. It also contains over 300 rare, unpublished photos that will take the reader on a fascinating trip behind the scenes in the making of this film.

‘Himala’ was directed by the late National Artist Ishmael Bernal in 1982 and was filmed entirely in the province of Ilocos Norte in just three weeks with a budget of only three million pesos. It was based on a true incident on a teenage girl in Cabra Island in Occidental Mindoro between 1966 and 1967.

The regular price is at Php600 per copy. For a bulk minimum purchase of 10 copies, buyers will get one copy for free. For reservations and confirmations, contact Jerry at (632) 4264961; 9289557; +639175331948.

Thy Womb: Another Nora Aunor’s ‘Himala’

Nora Aunor as the barren wife Shaleha. Photograph courtesy of Centerstage Productions.

Nora Aunor as the barren wife Shaleha. Photograph courtesy of Centerstage Productions.

I was asked by my friend Dale Bacar to join him for a special screening of Brillante Ma Mendoza’s ‘Thy Womb’ at 1195 Don Chino Roces Avenue corner Yakal Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City on a Saturday evening, December 8, at 6pm and I gladly said ‘yes’. Unfortunately, he had an emergency at his place, so I was with my other friend Ely Valendez instead.

The official poster of 'Thy Womb' as an entry to the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival. Image courtesy of Centerstage Productions.

The official poster of ‘Thy Womb’ as an entry to the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival. Image courtesy of Centerstage Productions.

Perhaps the one thing that convinced me to say ‘yes’ was for the fact that I did appreciate Mendoza’s international flick titled ‘Captive’ that featured European actress Isabelle Hupert and I got intrigued with how he managed the one and only Philippine superstar Nora Aunor. And of course, the film competed in festivals abroad and won at the 69th Venice International Festival (2012) that gave Ms. Aunor the Bisato d’ Oro Award for lead actress as well as in Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2012; Mendoza got the Best Director award, Brillante Ma Mendoza.

‘Thy Womb’ (Sinapupunan) is a story about a childless couple living in Tawi-Tawi, Mindanao. Apart from bringing together Nora Aunor as Shaleha and Bembol Roco as Bangas-An, Brillante also included in the cast two of Philippine entertainment’s beautiful faces—Lovi Poe as Mersila and Mercedes Cabral in a cameo role.

Why choose this film over the other entries in the upcoming 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival showing on December 25?

First, it’s a Brillante Mendoza project, which makes it more intriguing enough. Second, Nora Aunor and Bembol Roco are part of this film that empowers the Badjao community, an indigenous ethnic group commonly referred to as sea gypsies and who continue to have a seaborne lifestyle. Third, it could be more fitting to say that this entry has a more impactful message as opposed to the other entries this December festival.

Let me go back on Nora Aunor as the big star, a true artist in the real sense of the word as described by Mendoza. Aunor had no script prior to commencing the film. The details were just relayed to her and eventually made her come to Tawi-Tawi to shoot. In the filming of this movie, La Aunor even learned how to weave a mat, which was the centerpiece of its story.

Discover how the mat-making interweaves with the characters in the film. Yes, Brillante is a genius in telling a story to his audience by using metaphors. It is one film that will always make Mendoza climb up a notch-higher in his filmmaking stature. If Lino Brocka gave Nora Aunor ‘Bona’, Ishmael Bernal gave ‘Himala’, Mendoza gave ‘Thy Womb’ to the Superstar. For me, this is Nora Aunor’s another ‘Himala’.

Bare: Another Tragic Love Story

(To be ‘gay’ is a Matter of Choice?!)

About the Photo: The graphic artist chose a stained glass effect as a background to create the ambiance of the two subjects and for the onlookers to see that they're in a church. Jaime Barcelon as Jason and Bibo Reyes reprises his role as Peter in this Off-Broadway Pop Opera musical titled 'Bare' and is directed for the second time by Ana Abad Santos. The photograph is taken by Dale Bacar.

Talking about tragic love stories, the modern-day author that befits the identity is Nicholas Sparks since most of his novels especially ‘The Notebook’, ‘A Walk to Remember.’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’ are classic examples of such theme. But, what I’ve observed, most of the gay-themed flicks or anything that has to do with gayness, there is really a tinge of sorrow or grief and mostly tragic in its conclusion. It’s ironic that the gay people are supposed to be ‘gay’ by nature, but their lives are not really ‘gay’ all the time. Well, life is pretty much unfair even to those ‘straight’ and so-called ‘normal’ people. In the musical I just witnessed—I could daresay, being gay of any gay’s life is not all gay or should I say to be ‘gay’ is always a matter of choice?

After its initial sold-out three-week run in 2009, Ateneo blueREPERTORY of Loyola Schools Performing Arts Cluster brings back the Off-Broadway musical titled ‘Bare: A Pop Opera’, which opened on Wednesday, February 29, 8pm at T.E.A.T.R.I.N.O., The Promenade in Greenhills, San Juan. Despite its theme, back in the campus of the Catholic-run University, this production was dubbed as the most successful staged by the said theater group. Ana Abad Santos returns as the director and promises a more daring and a more challenging task to fulfill, now that it is brought outside of Ateneo and has a new venue to bring in theater enthusiasts to watch the perhaps ‘controversial’ production ever. I still personally love Repertory Philippines’ ‘Next Fall’ (maybe because I can identify more to the characters’ struggles as opposed to Bare’s).

I congratulate the entire team of ‘Bare’ for successfully mounting the production and for bravely presenting an issue that probably has been lurking around in Catholic-run schools. Do not get me wrong, I also came from a Catholic private school back in Cebu and in fact, there was a time that more and more alarming stories have reached the administration regarding the great rise of gay students in the campus. By the time, they had to do some ‘gay check’ I was already out of the campus and was already in Manila and was enrolled in a different school. I only learned about such story when I finally met a good friend of mine who was with the guidance center and recounted everything to me.

Bibo Reyes made an impressive portrayal of an alter boy named Peter, who is struggling to make his sexuality in the open. Photograph by Dale Bacar.

Bare’s story is real. It tackles about the young generation’s struggles—the peer pressure, wanting for acceptance and making a ‘difference’ as well. It is set in a Catholic boarding school. In a group of high school seniors, they face issues of sexuality and personal identity. It revolves around the altar boy named Peter (Bibo Reyes) and his secret affair with the golden boy Jason (Jaime Barcelon); Matt (Franco Chan), another altar boy; Ivy (Maronne Cruz), Peter and Jason’s friend, whom Matt is in love with; and Nadia (Cassie Manalastas), Jason’s overweight, sharp-tongued twin sister. The beauty of the musical is that, the characters were dressed in a Korean-like Pop stars. It makes it more appealing for the younger audience once they get to watch it because it’s not too far out to identify themselves with the characters.

In terms of performance, I could only single out, four outstanding ones. Of course, one wouldn’t set aside the more experienced actors like Rem Zamora and Jenny Jamora. Whenever Zamora assumes a particular role (mind you he took on three characters here—an African-American nun Sr. Chantelle, the priest and headmaster, and Diana Ross in Peter’s dream), he steals the scene or one would say—he really is an actor, a performer. Jamora as Claire, Peter’s mom makes her scenes real and could indeed touch the hearts of women who struggles having a gay son. Her portrayal is sincere that you would love her rather than hate her. Manalastas as Jason’s twin sister has her moments that will make you understand what it is to be left out, always the last option, the person who has problems with confidence. She sings her songs from the heart and she would make you shed tears as well. Lastly, Reyes as the altar boy who is in love with Jason—he most of the times, outshadows Jason in their scenes. He would standout in singing, in emoting and in conveying the message to his audience. He really has the ‘depth’ as an actor; he has a lot of promise. I have yet to watch Reb Atadero doing Peter, but based on the last time I’ve seen him, in the ‘Rizal X’ production—he sure can sing and act—so there’s no doubt that he can pull it off or equal what Reyes has done to the character.

Jaime Barcelon plays the golden boy that Peter is in love with. Photograph by Dale Bacar.

This production is classified as a rock musical and the book is written by Jon Hartmere, Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. It was indeed successful in presenting how sad the plight of the young people, particularly those who are hiding in their closets for fear of being ostracized by the society they live in—a society that is hypocritical and discriminating at the same time. The presentation is a cry for love, a better understanding and acceptance of gay people as humans and as children of God, too—worthy to be loved and nurtured.

‘Bare’ debuted at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, California, that had its run from October 2000 till February 25 of 2001. Its New York production was at the American Theatre of Actors off-Broadway, from April 19 till May 27, 2004; while the Los Angeles production and its New York production were both directed by Kristin Hanggi. On June 6-21, 2008, bare made its Houston debut at The Country Playhouse Black Box Productions and was directed by O’Dell Hutchison with musical direction by Luke Kirkwood. Its Sydney Premiere in September 2010 at the New Theatre, as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Playdates are on March 7-10 with gala shows on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and matinee shows on Saturdays at 3pm. For inquiries and ticket purchases, please contact Chiz Jardin at +639165787618 or via email – nicojardin12@yahoo.com. To buy shows, call or send SMS to Luis Marcelo at +639175025847.