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A domestic drama in Lauriana

MANILA, Philippines - The Pinoy filmdom has been graced by Salome, Insiang, Ligaya, Milagros, Bona, Flor, Delia and Sabel. They are women of different strokes but who all dream of acceptance, empowerment, justice, freedom and the good life.

Mel Chionglo, the veteran director behind Playgirl, Sinner or Saint, Sibak and Twilight Dancers, is adding Lauriana to that clique of women characters whose name bears the film title and whose story reflects different facets of a woman’s life.

“It is based on a true story (which happened) in my childhood,” offers direk Mel, whose last mainstream movie was Bente in 2009. “I talked with colleagues about making the story into film.” The plot revolves around Samuel Corazon, a Philippine Constabulary soldier in the ‘50s, and Lauriana, a dancer in a nightclub. A barrio in Lucena, Quezon will be the characters’ playing field.

Direk Mel’s wish was granted when the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) summoned veteran actors “to do the film of their choice, the stories of their choice and if possible, in the town or province where they come from,” says Mel, for the Sineng Pambansa set in September. Direk Gil Portes and Mel both hail from Quezon province.

From the soldier-dancer plotline, direk Mel adds that Ricky Lee had created another story which added a boy in the domestic equation. He will witness the secret of the two passionate souls. The child’s point of view plays a pivotal role in the story development being interspersed with the POVs of the man and the woman. Do we see multiple voices in the film?

Direk Mel and producer Baby Go

What direk Mel can promise is that the story will never be “plain and sensational.” The visual text engages viewers in a discussion on women’s and child’s rights. The child’s presence goes beyond the function of “embroidering” the film’s romance.

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“Samuel is a loving husband,” describes Allen Dizon of his character. “He has a first wife (to be played by Rich Asuncion) and gets another.” Because of his work as a soldier, he has been stationed in different provinces around the country like Quezon. There he meets the dancer Lauriana. Since a man can’t live without a woman, he decides to bring Lauriana home as partner. “What he is looking for in a woman, he has found in Lauriana,” shares Allen. The way he adores her is bordering on obsession, a main ingredient for paranoia and abuses.

Asked why Lauriana opts to stay in the relationship, Allen replies. “She loves him.” He is her hope to break away from poverty. “She also fights back,” adds the actor. Lauriana is not the typical submissive, passive woman. 

Lauriana the film is also a “psychological thriller,” according to direk Mel. If only the public is privy to what Samuel can do to Lauriana, one can say that the film is somewhat close to the theme of passion and obsession explored by In the Realm of the Senses, but cannot afford to be as graphic as the latter, given the conservative stance of many. Can a person also see a piece of Lolita in Lauriana as they are both victims of manipulative, controlling “lovers,” Lolita with his stepdad, while Lauriana with his PC partner? 

Lauriana’s tale may happen in some distant past and in some far-flung place, but hers should never be a parochial issue that people only discuss in whispers.

Playing the title role is Bangs Garcia. Her sweet-and-spice personality fits the Lauriana character.

It has only been four years since direk Mel directed Bente and he has been doing teleserye on the side and taking part in film organizations. So, he is not making a comeback in Lauriana. What he is set to do is to deliver another “family drama,” a genre Mel Chionglo has explored in the past.

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