One of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in the Philippine independent cinema recently comes up with the screen adaptation of a prized-winning stage play by Rene O. Villanueva and will have a world premiere at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Main Theater on August 9, at 9:00 pm. Ralston Jover’s Hiblang Abo is the filmmaker’s fifth feature which is about the stories of four men who are resident of an institution for senior citizens.
Jover shared to DLIST.PH some information sourced from his research while writing this film. While Hiblang Abo was mainly shot in a care home for senior citizens in Montalban, Rizal; some of the hospices he visited are poorly maintained. He also mentioned that romantic and intimate dalliances are not encouraged inside the institutions since such would be inconvenient for their mental and physical health. The elders they spoke with during their visits and actual shoots have all been resigned to solitude, as most of them feel abandoned and unwanted.
Lou Veloso leads the cast and whose character, a writer, is the focal point. Veloso, a veteran actor of stage, television, and film, relates that the concept of having to put up elders to hospice care is not inherently true to Filipino culture. He aspires that through this film old people will be more appreciated and vowed to be taken care of by their own family. Although, aging in institutions seems to be a depressing thought, the film is not about wallowing in grief – rather it is a celebration of life well lived, and making the most of the their remaining time, even in the uncertainty of obscurity.
Nanding Josef, a theater stalwart and seasoned character actor, shared that the story of Hiblang Abo hits close to home. He cared for his 87 year old mother until she ultimately died while carrying in his arms, “I witness her very last breath,” he tearfully recalled. Josef, who is also in his twilight years, revealed that he no longer fears death. “Those who fear their death are the ones who are not prepared because they have not accomplished enough, they havent loved enough, and not served their society enough,” he added. Popular among younger stage actors as Tatang Nanding, he told that he did not allow his own experience to affect him more than it should when portraying the role, so as not to appear melodramatic in his character work.
Leo Rialp, who started acting in theater and films late in his years, said he did not dream of portraying iconic characters, and related that aging is more manageable than being young and therefore more enjoyable. “The youngs do not have it easy in life. Much is expected of them. The society puts more pressure to the young.”
Having been known as television’s eternally funny man Mr Shooli in Mongolian Barbecue during the 1980s - Jun Urbano, an artist who wears many hats, seemed at first to be at odds portraying a dramatic role in what served to be his very first independent film. He found indie filmmaking entirely different when it comes to creative and production setups. “The dialogues are very fluid, the scenes are very fluid. They’re nothing like what mainstream usually churns out,” he recalled. Urbano, who himself is also a filmmaker, voiced out his admiration of Jover’s directorial skills and he hopes that his director could be financed more to make more quality films.
Hiblang Abo is co-written by Naning Estrella with Jover. Jover, who is mostly known for his ultra-realistic dregs of the society films (Baseco Bakal Boys, Bendor, Da Dog Show, Hamog), stressed the importance of having the younger generation see Hiblang Abo which serves as a reminder how much one owes to those who paved the way. He also revealed that he once again added a touch of magic realism in his latest film adaptation, which is significantly becoming his trademark as an auteur. It can also be recalled that Jover has recently competed at the prestigious Moscow International Film Festival for Hamog, a film about street urchins.
Other actors in the cast are Matt Daclan, who masterfully portrayed all four main characters in the flashback; Angela Cortez, who is a Kapampangan actress, fluidly portrayed a Cebuana wife; Cinemalaya Best Supporting Actress winner Flor Salanga completes the cast, which also includes award-winning indie regular Anna Luna. Other actors who played remarkable roles are Mike Liwag, Rener Concepcion, Bernard Carritero, Rommel Luna, and Jover film regular Cherry Malvar.