'Baler' wins big in 2008 MMFF awards

By Marinel Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A period film that depicts the last stand of Spanish forces amid the fall of colonization by the end of the 19th century bagged the most number of creative, acting and technical awards in the Metro Manila Film Festival awards night on Saturday.

Viva Films' "Baler," which aims to retell a contentious event of the Philippine revolution that happened in the church of San Luis de Tolosa in Baler, Aurora from July 1998 to June 1899, won ten awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Anne Curtis, Best Director for Mark Meily, Best Screenplay for Roy Iglesias, Best Supporting Actor for Phillip Salvador, Best Cinematography for Lee Meily, Best Production Design for Aped Santos, Best Editing for Danny Anonuevo, the Gender-Sensitive Award and the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Award.

Curtis won her first-ever acting award for her portrayal of Baler lass Feliza Reyes in love with a Spanish-Filipino trooper Celso Resurreccion (Jericho Rosales) in the historic siege.

"The fact that I was up against veteran actresses, who have won numerous awards in the past, made this trophy even more meaningful," Curtis said. She competed with veteran actresses Ai-Ai delas Alas ("Ang Tanging Ina N'yong Lahat"), Maricel Laxa, Dawn Zulueta (both for "Magkaibigan"), among others, for the Best Actress title.

"This is also for Echo (Rosales' nickname), who also worked really hard for this film. He's one of the best actors I know," Anne told the Philippine Daily Inquirer shortly after the awards ceremony held at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Meily earned his second MMFF Best Director award after winning the same plum for "Crying Ladies" in 2003. His wife Lee also took home her first MMFF award.

Christopher de Leon, meanwhile, received his eighth festival Best Actor award, the most by any artist in its 34-year history, for a role inspired by the late Rudy Fernandez in the Maverick Films drama "Magkaibigan" opposite last year's awardee Jinggoy Estrada.

Comedian-TV host Manilyn Reynes pulled a surprise when she was named Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as a lesbian talent coordinator in Canary Films' sex comedy "One Night Only," which also won Best Original Story for its director Jose Javier Reyes. "She's a last minute replacement," said Reyes, who accepted the award in Manilyn's behalf. "I did not regret asking her to be a part of this film."

Newcomer Robert Villar, better known in the fantasy series "Dyesebel" as the mermaid's trusted child friend "Buboy," won Best Child Performer in Regal Films' horror franchise "Shake, Rattle and Roll X."

Regal's other festival entry, "Desperadas 2," on the other hand, also won one award-Best Make-Up for Noli Villalobos.

The entry with the second most number of awards was the festival's first-ever animated film, "Dayo Sa Mundo ng Elementalia," which won four awards-Best Visual Effects (Robert Quilao), Best Musical Score (Jessie Lasaten), Best Theme Song ("Lipad" written by Jessie Lasaten and Artemio Abad Jr. and performed by Lea Salonga), and Best Sound (Albert Idioma and Wally Dellosa).

This year's box office top grossers, Star Cinema's "Tanging Ina N'yong Lahat" and the OctoArts Films-M-Zet Productions-APT Entertainment collaboration "Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After" won second and third festival Best Picture awards respectively.

The 34th Metro Manila Film Festival runs from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7.