She may be everyone’s favorite contravida but come 2017, Cherie Gil is all set to give life to a real Filipino heroine of the 1940s.
The 53-year-old actress—who turned the character Lavinia from the iconic film, Bituing Walang Ningning, into the ultimate mold of female antagonists in Philippine showbiz—confirmed she will be joining the historical full-length feature, A Thousand Tears.
Written and directed by Francis Villacorta (Pedro Calungsod, Batang Martir, 2013), A Thousand Tears will tell the stories of Second World War heroes Jose Abad Santos, Vicente Lim, and Josefa Llanes Escoda.
For the uninitiated, these figures are the faces featured on the one-thousand-peso bill. Their acts of heroism, however, are far more valuable than the amount on which they were minted.
Santos was the country’s Chief Justice when the Japanese Supreme Command conquered the Philippines in 1942. As the latter prepared to install a puppet government, they pursued, captured, interrogated, and eventually executed Santos via firing squad.
Lim, on the other hand, was the first Filipino graduate from the prestigious Westpoint Military Academy in the US. In the Battle of Abucay, he held the fortress to stop the advance of the Japanese Imperial Army into Bataan and Corregidor. Two months later, the general was captured and coerced to join the infamous Bataan Death March. He was eventually interrogated, tortured and imprisoned for refusing to accept the new authority. Consequently, he was beheaded.
Finally, Llanes Escoda, the founder of Girl Scouts of the Philippines, was a leader, wife and patriot who went to great length to find food, medicine and clothing for Filipino and American prisoners of war, while transmitting to them important information on the battle field. Working underground with her husband, Llanes Escoda bravely faced her captors who executed her via firing squad.
Unfortunately, not too many of the current generation know these three heroes important roles in the country’s quest for freedom. And it is this void, which precisely inspired Villacorta to take on the challenge of introducing them to millennial moviegoers.
“That’s what we want to get across in this move—what happened to them and how they contributed to the great history of fighting for our freedom,” the director reiterated at a news conference for the upcoming project on October 10.
Helping tie the stories of these three heroes together is opera singer-librettist Fides Cuyugan Asencio, who had a connection to all three national martyrs. To begin with, her family is related to the former Chief Justice; while her eldest brother was a soldier under General Lim; and finally, Asencio herself was a girl scout in the organization’s earliest days.
Besides helping Villacorta with the movie’s script, the 87-year-old further has a pivotal role in A Thousand Tears. As she performs her swan song in her ancestral home, it is through her eyes and memories that these heroes’ stories will come to life on the big screen.
Tasked to portray the young Fides is budding musician Lara Maigue who was Cuyugan Asencio’s student at the University of the Philippines.
Incidentally, it is Gil’s close affinity to the veteran opera singer, which convinced her take on the role Llanes Escoda in a heartbeat.
“Who can say no to Tita Fides? I couldn’t!” Gil exclaimed with her famously hearty laughter. Recalling when she received the offer for A Thousand Tears, she shared she was on a break at the time, having just finished the ABS-CBN primetime drama Dolce Amore, where she wonderfully portrayed the role of Liza Soberano’s Italian mother.
“When this was pitched to me, I realized how important it is to know our history. And so I thought that by making this movie, I could leave something that would carry on until I eventually leave this earth,” the multi-awarded TV, film and stage actress said.
With Gil as Llanes Escoda, the cast is shaping up to be a stellar one, especially once Christopher de Leon and Gabby Concepcion finally confirm for the roles of Santos and Lim, respectively. Besides these three big names, the rest of the actors who are in include Joel Torre (as Asencio’s father), Ayen Laurel (as Asencio’s mother), Nicole Asencio, Miguel Aguila, Art Acuña and Eric Quizon.
No to war
Villacorta is optimistic that at the turn of the new year, they will be starting shooting the film for release on either one of two national commemorations: Bataan Day in April or Independence Day in June.
The director, in ending the press conference, emphasized again and again how movies of historical importance should be made persistently amid the present trying times.
“With the possibilities of war in the South China Sea, in Syria and elsewhere in the world, perhaps with a movie like this, we can help deter people in the government or persuade public opinion to re-evaluate and talk instead of rushing into a war. This movie will show how horrible war is, and how useless it is, no matter the cause,” he declared.