Star Cinema’s Mila: Maricel talks about her ‘role of a lifetime’
- by Mario E. Bautista () - June 14, 2001 - 12:00am
Maricel Soriano looks fresh when we interview her at the presscon of her new movie, Mila. She just came back the day before from a three-week vacation in Los Angeles.

"It was very restful," she beams. "I was with my brother, Mikey, and ang friend kong si Anthony Roquel. I slept all the time at the Marriott Hotel in Orange County where we stayed. Mikey shopped for new clothes for me. He knows my taste naman. When he returned to the hotel with dresses I didn’t like, it was so easy to return them to the stores there, unlike here na ‘no return, no exchange’."

She came back in time for the promo of Mila and to help her two sons, Marron and Tien Tien, as they go back to school.

"You know how it is to be a mother, even if I have my own mom, (Linda Carterto) to help me with my kids, I feel I should still be there to give support to my children as they return to school. I’ve always stressed to them the importance of having a good education."

She is happy that Mila is a fitting tribute to school teachers.

"Teaching is one of the noblest professions," she says, "but I wonder why teachers here are so oppressed. Overworked sila, but underpaid. Mila shows the true plight of teachers in this country. Written by Ricky Lee and directed by Joel Lamangan, the film pays homage to teachers. It’s a fictionalized account of the true story of Anita Pamintuan, a teacher who died in 1992 after she was fired for joining a hunger strike. I feel so honored to play the title role of Mila Cabangon, a teacher who is also beaten up by her husband (played by Noni Buencamino) kaya nakipaghiwalay siya rito."

Is it true that the project was originally meant for Nora Aunor?

"When Direk Joel was still doing the project for another film company," she replies. "But when he brought it to Star Cinema, I was his first choice. Ako agad ang nasa isip niya. We were still doing our first movie together, Abandonada at Viva, when he told me about Mila. After I read the script, I fell in love with the role because it was very challenging. A dedicated teacher, life for Mila is a big classroom. She is always willing to share what she knows with her students, even outside the classroom. One of the kids she helped is Serena Dalrymple, a slow learner. When her co-teachers like Princess Punzalan, Mel Kimura and Kathleen Hermosa went on strike, she joined them and was dismissed from the job she loves very much."

Mila finds a new love in Primo (Piolo Pascual), a waiter she also has to leave when he becomes a drug addict.

"Mila begins wandering in the city and, in Ermita, she is reduced to selling coffee to jeepney drivers. But she also befriends the prostitutes in the area, like Cherry Pie Picache and Kaye Abad, and they become her new family. She teaches the streetkids there how to read and write, like Jiro Manio, BJ de Jesus and Bea Nicolas. She also saves a young girl, Angelica Panganiban, from becoming a child prostitute. Up to her last moments on earth, Mila continues to share herself with others, teaching being her greatest passion."

It’s no wonder that the film’s theme song is The Greatest Love of All, as sung by Martin Nievera. "Hindi ko iniisip ’yon," says Maricel. "I’m just glad the role is good and I did my best to give it justice. I was able to identify with Mila because her willingness to share herself with her family and friends, her effort and dedication in her work, are also what I feel para sa trabaho ko."

Who is the Mila in her own life?

"Naku, maraming Mila sa buhay ko.
There’s my mom Linda, my manager Manny Valera and the directors I’ve worked with through the years like Maryo de los Reyes, Chito Roño, Joey Reyes and now, Joel Lamangan. Lahat sila, malaki ang naitulong sa akin sa buhay at sa trabaho ko."

What are her most demanding scenes in the film?

"First is my reunion with my mother (played by Eva Darren). Mila was given away as a child and she was brought up by an uncle (played by Berting Labra). So it’s a very touching scene when we see each other again after so many years. Another difficult scene is my final scene with Piolo as we are about to part. You can feel Mila still cares for him, but she has to let him go dahil mahirap na ang takbo ng sitwasyon nila. What’s nice about the movie is that it helps open the eyes of the people and our public officials to the sad plight of our teachers. The issues Anita fought for in 1992 are the same issues our teachers are fighting for today: low pay, lack of adequate teaching materials and classrooms; and come election time, ginagamit sila mula sa botohan hanggang sa bilangan ng boto."

will be premiered at SM Megamall on June 26 and will open nationwide on June 27. What’s her next project after this?

"It’s still with Star Cinema and again with Direk Joel. This is my film with Aga Muhlach which has long been planned pero hindi matuloy-tuloy. The tentative title is Picture Dad."

Is it true that her sitcom, Kaya ni Mister, Kaya ni Misis, will soon be axed?

"What I know is that Cesar (Montano) won’t renew his contract when it expires in July. But the ABS-CBN management told me they want to go on with the show even without him because it’s rating well and is loaded with commercials."

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