As the cliché goes, director Arlyn Dela Cruz’s reputation precedes her. The hard-hitting journalist-turned-film director, who was once a segment production for the late Inday Badiday’s iconic talk show See-True, hugged headlines in 2002 when she was hostage by the Abu Sayyaf for 98 days in Sulu while on coverage.
Senator Loren Legarda headed the negotiations for her release, and upon her return, rumors went wild that she fell into captive-bonding with her kidnappers (also known as the Stockholm Syndrome), aggravated by speculations that she was subject for an order for battle.
Writing the book, A Lifetime of Freedom, from her ordeal, Arlyn revealed the mindset of the Abu Sayyaf and the local media, effectively showing her unique brand of investigative journalism and disproving the malicious speculations that she sympathized with her captors.
Her initiation into filmmaking eventually came by way of co-writing the script for Brillante Mendoza’s Captive, based on her exclusive interview with the hostage-taking incident of Martin and Gracia Burnham in 2001.
It wasn’t until 2015 that she set foot in moviemaking again when she co-wrote the script for Iglesia Ni Cristo’s mammoth biopic Felix Manalo, after which she finally decided to take the plunge and shoot her debut movie, Maratabat (Honor/Pride), with Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu as co-producer.
With clan wars as theme of said indie film, Maratabat won Best Supporting Actor for Kristoffer King in the New Wave category 2014’s Metro Manila Film Festival; Best Screenwriter for Arlyn at the PMPC Star Awards for Movies’ Indie Film category; and most impressively, the Award of Merit at The Indie Fest, based in California, and Best International Film at the 5th People’s Film Festival, held in New York just this June.
Arlyn’s succeeding films Mandirigma, an inspired take from the controversial SAF 44 massacre, also premiered at the New Wave section of the 2015 MMFF; while her third and latest movie Tibak—a biopic of Kabataang Makabayan (KM) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison—premiered over the National Heroes long weekend at the Film Center of University of the Philippines.
Prior to the Tibak’s screening, the who’s who of the First Quarter Storm and the millennials who were in full force gathered for the simple 1st Gawad Supremo Awards ceremony, hosted by director Bibeth Orteza-Seguion Reyna.
The Gawad Supremo was held to honor the ideals and teachings of the underrated hero Andres Bonifacio, and had President Rodrigo Duterte and Sison himself as its first awardees.
Sison thanked the organizers of Gawad Superemo via a video patch from the Netherlands for instituting awards; while Malacañang spokesperson Ernesto Abella accepted the President’s award on his behalf.
After the speeches, it was Arlyn’s turn at the podium to talk about Tibak, calling her male lead Jak Roberto “a brilliant actor,” as the rest of the cast in Zyruz Imperial who portrayed an oppressed peasant; and Marion Aunor, niece of the Superstar, who represented the women and beauty queens like Maita Gomez and Nelia Sancho who fled to the hills to side with the NPA and join the fight against the dictatorial regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
In closing, Arlyn said that Tibak is not only about Joma Sison, it is also dedicated to the Filipino people in our perpetual search for the illusive and true meaning of democracy and social justice.