In the race for box-office champion, this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is singularly empowered with the public’s attention concentrated on two gigantic films Sisterakas and Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako. The former has Vice Gan- da, Ai-Ai delas Alas and Kris Aquino, and box-office giant, direk Wenn Deramas. The latter, eternal top grosser in the MMFF Vic Sotto, with Bong Revilla on a return bout from 2010 and the new element of Judy Ann Santos. The expectation for 2012 is for Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako to keep its top rank in the box-office.
The question in everyone’s mind is how much difference will Judy Ann make? At the press meet on the movie, we got our answer. Juday as box-office draw is already a built-in advantage. Juday as Princess Angelina Kalinisan Orteza or AKO further brings in the element that becomes the bone of the movie, the fight for Mother Earth. And critics searching for relevance, for a cause beneath the display of tricks, stunts, jokes and fantasy-laden adventure, cannot help but be awakened to the fact that Compostela Valley may indeed be our future if we don’t act now.
We cornered Juday to get a more round- ed picture of her showbiz life and lore. In 1989, an 11-year-old Judy Ann appeared in Regal Shocker’s Aparador. She excitedly awaited using prosthetics she thought was fun only to end up crying with pain when the time came to take it off. In 1994, she recalled celebrating her birthday with Dolphy and Vandolph Quizon on the set of Father and Son. She was even too shy to let them know it was her birthday.
Babae, an MMFF entry in 1997, was her most stressful, from first to last shooting day, Juday said. “Imagine be- ing cast with Nora Aunor, Jao Mapa and Nida Blanca with Lupita Kashiwahara as director!” But Juday was apparently making her presence felt. She ended up with a Best Supporting Actress nomi- nation. The same year, Juday recalled Chito Roño’s much-awarded Nasaan Ang Puso Ko as her first and last project with the director, where she got a dress- ing down when she came in late.
It was in 1999 that she was cast in the unforgettable Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko! as the tomboyish daughter of a strict FPJ, King of Philippine Movies. The film was the first then in Philippine movie history to have exceeded the P100M-mark at the box- office. First Dolphy, then FPJ. Juday must have felt in 7th heaven.
She remembered Minsan Ko Lang Sasabihin in 2000 as her first and only film with Bong Revilla as an NBI agent out to destroy a big syndicate in the city, while Juday played a rich haciendera’s daughter hiding in the city to escape someone wanting to kill her.
Year 2004 was Juday’s turning point. At 26, she was ready for ma- ture roles as in Sabel for Regal under Joel Lamangan, another MMFF entry. “It must be my most daring role to date, a dark film during which I caught myself saying a prayer while shooting. But I knew I had enough of teenybopper films and had to make the move. I played a lesbian, a play- girl, I was raped.” It was an ambitious film where both Joel and writer Ricky Lee agreed that it needed an actress who could deliver the complexities and dramatic require- ments of the Sabel character and that was Juday. As predicted, Sabel turned the tide for Juday. She won her first Best Actress award from ENPRESS Golden Screen, Gawad Tan- glaw and the super choosy Gawad Urian. After Sabel, it was almost like picking apples.
Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo under Joey Reyes came in 2006 when Ryan Agon- cillo also came into her life. The dram- edy for the MMFF did very well at the box-office and gave Juday five Best Actress awards. In MMFF 2007, Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo, a sequel to Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo, brought an- other Best Actress award.
It was time for her in 2008 to turn indie producer with Ploning, directed by best friend Dante Gar- cia. Not only did Juday win awards, the film also be- came the country’s entry in the Foreign Language category of the Oscars. It was shown in various film festi- vals, and garnered a total of 23 awards from all over the world. Juday told us that she wouldn’t exchange the experience of Plon- ing with any other.
Last year, Juday was again at the MMFF with My House Husband: Ikaw Na, another Joey Reyes dramedy with Ryan and joined by Eugene Domingo. It won fourth place in the box office, ranking after Enteng, Segunda Mano and Panday 2. The summary of Judy Ann’s career highlights should give us an idea of just what Juday is contributing to the perennial MMFF. We are absolutely certain there will be surprises, but we’re not saying what they would be.
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