De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
presents
A Gabby Fernandez Film

Trailer

 
 

About the Project



“The concept for this film project was floated by [director] Gabby Fernandez two years ago. There were only two marching orders from Benilde's office of the Vice Chancellor for academics.

“First, the film should be a statement piece for the college, one that would gain the respect of the industry and the professional. Second, it has to be a community activity involving the various programs of the college and its members.

“These two expectations are grounded on the values and principles of our institution, as laid out by our founder, St. John Baptiste De La Salle. It is the belief of our founder that educational experiences should prepare our students on the professional expectations and competencies needed by the industry. This is to provide relevance to education and make our students productive members of society once they graduate.

“Having hands-on apprenticeship experience with industry professionals, who are considered at the top of their field, provided our students with an opportunity to apply the theories learned inside the classroom. This is also an opportunity for the students to have a realistic job preview of their chosen specialization.

“The college wishes to convey great appreciation to all of the talented artists and film industry practitioners – consciously or unconsciously you served as ministers to our students.

“The feedback we received from the students who participated in this project was very positive. This type of collaboration serves as our model to close the perennial problem of industry-academe gap. This project also provided an opportunity for members of the Benildean community, within and outside of the School of Design and Arts (SDA), to participate in the project.

“Coinciding with our La Sallian principles, the collaboration of all the various SDA programs [in this film] could serve as a template to future institutional projects. It opened opportunities for the development of an incubation system for students, to encourage them to develop new, innovative and experimental materials that the college could eventually follow.

“For our faculty members, this project provided them with the appropriate industry standard project. This will translate to a more enriched curricular content that is both professional and industry responsive.

“Let me extend the college’s appreciation to the following, to the actors and industry professionals who accepted this project, particularly those who are present here: Ms. Fides Cuyugan-Asensio – the time and experience you have shared and given our students is valued.

“To Mr. Gabby Fernandez our director and project champion, thank you for accepting the challenges of this project.

“To our [former] president, Br. Victor Franco FSC, the college thanks you for giving us the freedom to experiment on unusual, out-of-the-box business and educational models.

“Thank you and I hope you enjoy the movie.”

– Bob Tang, Vice Chancellor for Academics before the Benilde community's private screening of Mana at the SDA Theater, April, 2013.

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Synopsis

 

Amidst the vast sugar plantations of Negros in Southern Philippines, a matriarch lies in the throes of death.

Her children rush home to confront the crisis as news of the impending death of their well-loved mother spreads among the community.

There, in their ancestral house, the siblings are forced to deal with the issues of inheritance, tradition and the family legacy.

It is a familiar tale. After all, every family has its story.

And to each one, its own deserved secrets.

Director's Treatment

It has been said that there is a dearth of Filipino films dealing with the country’s upper class, the wealthy and landed or in bio world parlance “the ruling class”. Before he passed away, Filipino critic Alexis Tioseco, in his essay “Wishful Thinking for Philippine Cinema”, wrote: “I wish someone, anyone, would make a good, thought-provoking film about the Philippine upper class.”

This is no surprise as indie filmmakers nowadays mostly opt to tackle subject matters that deal with the darker aspects of Philippine society: poverty, sex, corruption, political insurgencies, injustice etc. After all, for many international audiences, these are unfamiliar subject matters, new and exotic and therefore marketable. With a film market as small as the Philippines, who could blame these filmmakers for trying to reach out to a larger audience.

Still, watching these films, it’s as if no middle or upper-class existed in the Philippines.

MANA is about an upper class family – the fictional Villareals. The film is in fact literally about the ruling class.

It is set in Negros Occidental (often simply called Negros), where sugar plantations have been a source of unimaginable wealth for haciendero-families for almost a century. These families have managed to keep the land and its bounty to themselves – passing it on to one generation after the other. As is often the case in bio-world countries or feudal societies, economic clout results in political family. The Villareals are representative of the handful of family dynasties that continue to rule the Philippines, specially in the countryside.

Yet as a director, I am not so much interested in how the Villareals wield their power but rather in how the internal dynamics in such a families work. Like any family that has been brought up together, they share the same values, the same fond memories and a loving bond that holds them tightly together. Yet in such families, there is more than just love or memories involved. There is power, money, influence and inheritance at stake, specially as in the case of MANA’s story, the last-living parent is about to die.

Admittedly my family ancestry is rooted in this ruling class. Thus, I wanted the treatment of the script to be as realistic as possible. Which brings me to another layer of the film: MANA also deals with folklore.

However, in a country such as the Philippines where superstition and ancient beliefs are still held in high-regard, folklore is oftentimes not fictional. In many parts of the countryside, communities believe these folklore to be true.

As I do.

Thus, I wanted to treat that layer of folklore in as realistic a manner as possible, in the same manner that I treated the Villareals as close to reality as I could. Not because it would make for a better film. But because many Filipinos, mostly those living in the countryside, believe this specific folklore to be true.

In a private screening of the film held for the producers, cast, crew and a handful of industry friends, one of them came up to me after and said - “this is not fictional”. Well, it is. And at the same time, it’s not.

It is exactly the director’s treatment I wanted to apply to the film.

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Director's Bio

 

Gabriel “Gabby” Fernandez, Director began his career in the film and television industry as an acting coach 1996. That year, he was tasked to train young talents from ABS-CBN, then the country’s undisputable top television network. In that same year, Peque Gallaga asked him to become part of his film-making team, serving as Art Director for the American Production Designer Bradley Mayer in the Peque Gallaga-Lore Reyes film “Magic Kingdom” (1997, Viva Films). He served as Art Director for two more succeeding Gallaga-Reyes films, namely: Gangland (1998, Viva Films), Puso Ng Pasko (1998, Star Cinema). In 1999, he production designed “Ang Kabit Ni Mrs. Montero” (Viva Films) made the same directing tandem. He then went back to his first-love, acting coaching, for Gallaga-Reyes’ “Unfaithful Wife 2” (Viva Films) and “Sa Piling Ng Aswang” (Regal Films) for which he also co-wrote the screenplay.

In the year 2000, he established the country’s first comedy improvisation group, based in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. From 2001-2004, he served as an acting coach and assistant director for various TV shows by GMA-7.

In 2005, he directed his first film “Nasaan Si Francis?”, produced by Unitel Pictures. The film is a farcical take on the local drug scene, one of the few films in the country to tackle this taboo subject head-on. It received mainstream funding and was distributed nationwide in 1996.

In 2007, he decided to enter the academe becoming first a faculty, and later on Chairman, of the Production Design Department at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. He still holds this position today while continuing to do acting coaching for some of the biggest actors and actresses in the film and television industry.

In 2009, the Cinema Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts tapped him to become Festival Director of Cinema Rehiyon - the first festival that focused solely on Philippine regional cinema, or films made outside of Metro Manila by local filmmakers. He was again Festival Director of the 2010 Cinema Rehiyon. Since then, the festival has produced some of the top emerging filmmakers in the country.

“MANA”, produced by the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, is his second full feature film and is based on his 2011 Urian-nominated short film of the same title.

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Cast

FIDES CUYUGAN-ASENSIO (“DOÑA CONCHA”)

Long considered as the doyenne of Philippine opera, Fides was born on August 1, 1931. In 1948, she received a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia – becoming the first Filipina to be accepted at the prestigious music school. Throughout the decades, her outstanding performances in a wide range of operas has earned her critical praise from international circles. In 2005, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conferred on her the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Philippine music.

Her first performance as a film actress was equally notable and distinguished as she starred in Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata” in 1981. The film is now considered by many critics as one of the best Filipino films of all time. Recently, the emergence of a vibrant independent scene in Philippine cinema beckoned to her. In 2011, she garnered two Best Actress nominations for her role in Loy Arcenas’ “Niño”. In 2012, her performance in Vincent Sandoval’s “Apparition” was once again nominated this time as Best Supporting Actress.

“MANA” is only the cast film to feature a performance by Fides Cuyugan-Asensio.

 

JAIME FABREGAS (“Roly”/“Kuya”)

In a career that has spanned almost forty years, Jaime Fabregas’ body of work validates his reputation as one of the most versatile and talented actors in the Philippine film industry. From historical period pieces to comedies, action flicks to horror-suspense thrillers: he has portrayed a staggering range of roles, with his acting equally at-home in, and truthful to, each specific genre.

He started out in 1976 in the film “Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?” directed by National Artist Eddie Romero in 1976. This was followed by Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata” in 1982. In the ensuing decade, he would follow this tradition of working with some of the most iconic directors of Philippine cinema. These directors would later on influence and define the country’s cinematic sensibilities in the 1980s: Ishmael Bernal, Elwood Perez, Fernando Poe Jr., Celso Ad Castillo, Emmanuel Borlaza, Luciano Carlos, among many others.

With the rise and development of the indie-filmmaking scene in the Philippines, he has found himself working once again with era-defining filmmakers. Among his latest films are Chris Martinez’ “I Do Bidoo Bidoo” – a comedy musical (2012) and Lawrence Fajardo’s “The Strangers” an action-thriller based on folklore.

He is also a noted film composer and musical scorer. He has won 14 awards for Best Musical Score from the various award-giving bodies throughout the years.

 

CHERIE GIL (“Sandra”)

Her break-out film was “City After Dark” (1980, originally titled “Manila By Night”) directed by National Artist Ishmael Bernal. The controversial film, depicting the gritty underbelly behind the nation’s capital, was invited to the Berlin Film Festival but was disallowed participation by the Marcos regime who held the country under martial law.

In 1982, she starred in the landmark World War II epic “Oro, Plata, Mata” directed by Peque Gallaga, a film nominated for the Golden Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival.

In the succeeding years, both Bernal and Gallaga, known for their sophisticated and erudite cinematic take on Philippine society, would constantly cast her in their films.

As would the country’s premiere auteur Mike de Leon in “Bilanggo Sa Dilim” (1986). This is no surprise as her subtle, truthful and complex portrayals of characters is a rarity in the Philippine film industry which, then as now, favors over-the-top and stereotypical type of acting from its actresses.

She is currently one of the most sought-after actresses in television, creating unique characters for some of the country’s highest-rated TV series.

 

MARK GIL (“Lino”)

In 1982, Mark Gil starred in Mike de Leon’s “Batch ‘81”, a film nominated for the Golden Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival and featured in the Director’s Fortnight of Cannes Film Festival. In the same year, he was also in “Palipat-lipat, Papalit-palit” directed by National Artist Lino Brocka.

In that career-defining year, Mark Gil was nominated by all the major award-giving bodies for both Best Actor (“Batch ‘81”) and Best Supporting Actor (“Palipat-lipat, Papalit-palit”). Through the years, the intensity and commitment which has marked his acting style has earned him 17 nominations and 6 awards.

Mark Gil is known to be an ardent supporter of Philippine independent cinema. He has acted in many low-budget films that were directed by some of the most outstanding young filmmakers emerging the scene today. In 2007, he won the Gawad Urian’s Best Actor award for the indie-film “Rotonda” directed by Ron Bryant.

 

TETCHIE AGBAYANI (“CES”)

As a beautiful young model in 1982, Ms. Agbayani astounded the country and much of the world when she became the first Filipina, and one of the first Asian women, to grace the centerfold of Playboy Magazine (July 1982, German Edition). The exotic and classy look she portrayed in this ground-breaking role catapulted her into an international acting career. She starred in John Boorman’s “Emerald Forest” (1986), the Tom Hanks and Shelley Long starrer “The Money Pit” (1986) directed by Richard Benjamin and the Australian film “Rikki and Pete” (1988) directed by Nadia Tass.

Upon relocating back to the Philippines in 1989, she took up graduate studies eventually became a teacher. Recently, she has been concentrating in acting for television, essaying roles with maturity and intelligence. Her occasional and carefully-chosen forays into Philippine cinema have earned her 6 nominations from various award-giving bodies.

 

RICKY DAVAO (“Mike”)

One of the most prolific personalities working in the Philippine film industry today, Ricky Davao is both an actor and a director. He started in the industry in the early 80s and has since gone on to become one of the finest actors in the country. He has received numerous awards through the years, among them: Best Supporting Actor for Eddie Garcia’s “Abot Hanggang Sukdulan” (FAMAS Awards, 1990), Best Actor for Gil Portes’ “The Kite” (Gawad Urian, 2000) and Best Actor for Jose Javier Reyes’ “Minsan May Isang Puso” (FAP Awards, 2002). He was also the lead actor in Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s “Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay Ni Selya” which won the Jury Award in the 1998 Berlin Film Festival.

Currently, he is one of the most sought after television directors, working for two of the country’s top TV networks – ABS-CBN and GMA-7. Some of the television shows he has directed are: “Magpakailanman”, “Forever”, “Coffee Prince”, “Makapiling Kang Muli”.

From time to time he also serves as juror for national and international film festivals.

 

EPY QUIZON (“Bernie”)

When the Philippine independent cinema first emerged as a thriving movement in the mid-2000s, Epy Quizon was one of the first actors to lend his unqualified support. At a time when most of the mainstream actors frowned upon the low pay and less-than-ideal working conditions that marks indie filmmaking, he was there to help the fledgling movement along. In the process, his filmography features some of the best indie films to come out of Philippine cinema. At the same time, this generosity of spirit has allowed him to play some of the most unique and quirkiest characters – roles which can only be created by independent cinema.

In 2001, he won the Best Supporting Actor award from both the Famas Awards and the Gawad Urian for his role in “Markova: Comfort Gay”, acting alongside his father, the legendary comedian, Dolphy.

Epy Quizon is also a musician, a director and a film producer.

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Creative Team

LEE BRIONES (aka LEE MEILY): DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Lee started out her career as a an advertising producer for television commercials. Later on she shifted to the field she truly loved and became a director of photography.

In the mid-90s to the mid-2000s, Lee was one of the most in-demand DOP’s in the Philippine advertising industry. But the artist in her could not be contained and soon she was shuttling between doing D.O.P. work for advertising and for films. In 2001, she won her first film industry award the FAMAS Award her work in Laurice Guillen’s “Tanging Yaman”. In 2004, she won at the Gawad Urian for Mark Meily’s “Crying Ladies”. In 2008, she won an unprecedented 4 awards from different award-giving bodies (Metro Manila Film Festival, Star Awards, FAP Awards and the FAMAS) for her work in Mark Meily’s “Baler”.

She was Director of Photography for John Sayles’ “Amigo” filmed entirely on location in Bohol, Philippines.

 

RODELL CRUZ – PRODUCTION DESIGNER

In 1981, Rodell Cruz was handpicked by Peque Gallaga to co-production design his film “Oro, Plata, Mata” with Don Escudero. It was Cruz’ first film. For that, he won the Gawad Urian for Best Production Design together with Don Escudero. He was only 21 years old at that time. 2 years later, he won the same award, again shared with Don Escudero, this time for Abbo de la Cruz’ “Misteryo Sa Tuwa”. By age of 25, he was working for Oliver Stone as Art Director for the Philippine location shoot of “Platoon”. In 1988, Stone once again tapped him for “Born On The cast of July”.

In the ensuing decades, he has done production design work for film, TV and advertising and has won a total of 9 awards from the various industries.

In 2010, he production designed John Sayles “Amigo”. His work for this film earned him another Gawad Urian, bringing to a full circle his astounding production design career.

 

LAWRENCE FAJARDO – EDITOR

An award-winning director, Fajardo broke into the scene when he won the Special Jury Prize at the 1st Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in 2005. Since then his films have won three awards nationally and two Best Film awards from international film festivals: “Amok”, Moscow International Film Festival 2012 and “Posas” (Shackled), Hanoi International Film Festival.

He has also received numerous nominations for his editing work on his films and those of other filmmakers.

 

VON DE GUZMAN – MUSICAL SCORE

Von de Guzman holds a Masters Degree in Musical Theater from New York University. He has worked in the Philippine film and television industry as a composer and musical scorer since 2002. He started his film career working on the “MANO PO” film series (Regal Films). The original MANO PO film as well as its subsequent sequels are some of the biggest box-office hits in the country during the years it was produced. He has garnered 33 nominations for Best Musical Score for Film or TV in a span of only 11 years and has won 7 awards. He is also a singer, composer, conductor and musical director for theater, live events and concerts.

 

Jed Sicangco – Art Director

Mr. Sicangco has served as Art Department for various televison shows in GMA 7 among them "MULAWIN" and "AMAYA". He was also for the film "LITSONERO", an entry in the DGPI's SineDirek Film Festival

Sicangco is also a director in his own right with credits such as the docu "Botong Francisco" and the short film "Makina" which was an official entry to the non-compeittion national film festval Cinema Rehiiyon 2012 where it was cited by many as one of the best short films in that year's festival. since 2002. He started his film career working on the “MANO PO” film series (Regal Films). The original MANO PO film as well as its subsequent sequels are some of the biggest box-office hits in the country during the years it was produced. He has garnered 33 nominations for Best Musical Score for Film or TV in a span of only 11 years and has won 7 awards.

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Behind the Scenes

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Downloadables & Media

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Promos

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