Latest Stories

They still haven’t given up tomorrow


PACO (right) and his coaccused. ALEX BADAYOS

“We didn’t really know what we were doing, to be honest with you,” said Michael Collins, director of the documentary “Give Up Tomorrow” and founder of Thoughtful Robot, a New York-based production company.

Producer Marty Syjuco added, “It’s our first film ever. In fact, when we first decided to fly to the Philippines from New York to make this film, we bought a camera. And on the flight over, we were reading the instruction manual on how to use it.”

Theirs was a task that even experienced filmmakers would find daunting. They set out to film a documentary about Paco Llarañaga, who, with six others, was convicted of the 1997 rape and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu.

Despite the conviction, Paco, who is still serving his sentence in a prison in Spain, his friends, his family and numerous witnesses maintain his innocence. He couldn’t have committed the crime in Cebu, they said. He was in Manila and they had pictures and records to prove it.

For Marty, whose brother is married to Paco’s sister, the story is personal. “When all this was happening, I was in Manila. Paco was younger than me, I met him in my brother’s wedding. When he was first accused, I thought, he has all these witnesses, it’s gonna go to trial, eventually it will work itself out.

“I moved to New York to study film and years later, Paco was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that it had gotten this far. I was overcome with guilt. I knew there was this innocent guy, he was my brother’s brother-in-law, he was languishing in prison all these years, and I didn’t do anything.

“And so I started to ask myself, what can I do? How can I get involved? And that’s when we picked up the camera.”

Smuggled camera

Michael and Marty worked on the film for seven years, shooting in three continents and four countries, interviewing over a hundred people, going through thousands of pages of documents and smuggling a camera into Bilibid Prison.

Marty said, “You saw in the film that Paco wasn’t allowed to testify in his own trial. That was a major violation of his constitutional right. So we decided early on to smuggle the camera into prison to give a voice to Paco. We feel that we did our job as filmmakers to tell his story.”

In the beginning, the film’s funding came from Michael and Marty’s pockets—the two used their credit cards to travel and to buy the equipment. “We realized that we had to raise the proper funding to complete the film. To edit the film, we really wanted to work with an experienced editor in New York. It took two years to edit this film. We had to raise the funds through grants. We applied to Sundance and Tribeca and the BBC came onboard as a coproduction partner and PBS. Little by little, we were able to secure the funding the finish the film,” said Marty.

The result of their hard work is a compelling film that is moving, shocking and, surprisingly, inspiring.

It isn’t just one man’s story—it’s a riveting tale of corruption, injustice and misuse of political power.

Since its debut last year at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York where it won two awards, “Give Up Tomorrow” has played in over 50 festivals in 25 countries, winning 13 other major awards and leaving critics raving. Simon Miraudo of Quickflix wrote, “GUT is as powerful as its acronym implies—it’s a gut punch.”

Two weeks ago, “Give Up Tomorrow” finally made its Philippine premiere at Cinemalaya. A second screening was held a week later and CCP’s Little Theater was packed with an audience that included key players in the case—Chef Rowena Bautista, Paco’s former teacher at CCA who was one of his witnesses, and Sandy Coronel, his lawyer.

The film played and the audience reacted loudly as they witnessed the injustice unfold onscreen. There were groans and whispered indignation, tears and even shocked laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.

After the credits rolled, Michael and Marty walked onstage for the Q&A session and audience members rose to their feet, giving the filmmakers a standing ovation.

Marty told the audience, “We hope we can help prevent future injustice so this doesn’t happen to future Pacos out there.”

Visit www.pacodocu.com.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Cebu , Chiong murders , Marty Syjuco , Michael Collins , “Give Up Tomorrow , ” Paco Llarañaga

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • [VIDEO] No assurances on Janet Lim-Napoles’ bid to become state witness
  • South Sudan president fires long-time army leader
  • 25 cops ordered relieved over links to drugs
  • Bloodied shirt, unwashed fork: JPII relics abound
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted