Late in 2021 came a film musical “Katips: the Movie” starring young stars Jerome Ponce and Nicole Asensio, and written and directed by Vince Tañada. An antimartial law film, it squared off against the pro-Marcos movie “Maid in Malacañang,” and went on to win seven trophies at the Famas awards in July last year.
Now, with reports of an anti-Aquino movie by the same director of “Maid in Malacañang,” comes another film written and directed by Tañada, “Ako si Ninoy” (I am Ninoy). Like “Katips” it is based on an earlier stage musical by Tañada, who heads the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF). Music for both plays and movie versions is by Pipo Cifra, a PSF mainstay.
There are veterans in “Ako si Ninoy,” like Pinky Amador (who zestfully plays Imelda Marcos), Jim Paredes, Bodjie Pascua and Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim; but the majority are young actors-singers who shine in various roles representing the different sectors of society and who were not yet born when the events depicted (1983-1986) are played out in the film.
JK Labajo plays the martyred former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, with Sarah Holmes as Cory Aquino. This was announced by Tañada in a recent press conference at the PSF Black Box Theater in Manila. The rest of the ensemble includes Joaquin Domagoso, Johnrey Rivas, Vean Olmedo, Cassy Legazpi, Nicole Laurel Asensio, JM Yosures, Marlo Mortel, Jomar Bautista, Azenith Briones, Lovely Rivero, Sharmaine Suarez, Tuesday Vargas, Donito Nose, Brylle Mondejar and Brae Luke Quirante.
They play the roles of an OFW, a housewife, a teacher, a news reporter, a teen star, a labor leader, an activist, a doctor to the barrios, an honor student, a war veteran and a child hero. The lives of these individuals run parallel with that of the assassinated opposition leader. A tantalizing trailer was shown during the press conference, showing shots of “Aquino” being arrested in the plane by the military, witnessed by the Crying Lady; protest demonstrations, “Imelda” with eyes blazing and the historic funeral march with a crowd estimated by the Associated Press to number two million.
Labajo said he was honored to play the role of the martyred hero, and that it was a real challenge because it dealt with events well before his time. For his part, Domagoso said his father (former Manila mayor Isko Moreno) did not object when he consulted him about the role. “I listen to him and respect him,” he added. “We are both artists.”
Tañada, asked what he and the “principled volunteer-netizens” would do if the Marcos trolls would vent their ire on the film, as they surely will, said at first “I am not interested in these insignificant creatures.” Then he added, “Bahala na kami. We can handle them. Bring it on.”
The director said the film would be shown nationwide “soon,” most likely during the first quarter of the year. It will also be shown in several theaters in Australia, Japan, the United States and possibly other countries.
“The film is for those who believe in the truth,” Tañada declared. “We have to fight disinformation. We are celebrating the Filipino spirit, not just Ninoy. We are intertwining fictional stories from very different sectors.”
He revealed. “I interviewed Cory when she was ill with cancer. This came from her, she gave her own inputs.” Historical accounts came from historian Xiao Chua, and the assassination accounts from the Crying Lady Rebecca Quijano.
“The message is that anybody can be a hero,” Tañada summed up. “You do not have to die to be a hero. The film is not Marcos vs. Aquino, it is not about Marcos. There is no Marcos character here.” —CONTRIBUTED