Magnifico: The best of Maryo J.
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - January 25, 2003 - 12:00am
The late great Ishmael Bernal was known for his social satires. The equally great Lino Brocka – although he also did a lot of glossy melodramas – had a penchant for showing the slums.

Among the active filmmakers today, Jose Javier Reyes’ milieu is obviously the middle class – despite Live Show’s critical success (or notoriety if you ask the conservative sector), while Lav Diaz is getting noted for his long, winding scenes of which there are plenty in his more than five-hour film, Batang Westside.

In the case of Maryo J. de los Reyes, he was initially identified with youth-oriented films – and was, without question, the best in that genre. His first movie project, High School Circa ’65, was highly-acclaimed by the critics, while Bagets I is a finely-crafted and very entertaining youth film that broke box-office records when it was released in early 1984.

Eventually, however, he started tackling relationships in his films and proved to be a success in his depictions of various human relations: a married man’s relationship with his mistress (My Other Woman, Sa Ngalan ng Pag-ibig, Pahiram ng Isang Saglit), a married woman’s relationship with a younger man (Sinungaling Mong Puso) and even homosexual relations (Sa Paraiso ni Efren and partly in Gusto Ko Nang Lumigaya). His latest movie, Violett Films’ Magnifico (set for release on Feb. 13) is about a young boy’s relationship with his family and members of their community.

"But you know what," he tells me, "even in my second film, Gabun, I was already tackling relationships. Gabun is about the relationship of the first and second families of a successful businessman played by Eddie Rodriguez.

"They say I’m inconsistent with my themes," he offers. But I say he is versatile. Of the more than 60 films he has done, Maryo J. de los Reyes has worked on varying themes – from musical comedies (Nora Aunor’s Annie Batungbakal) to psychological thrillers (Vilma Santos’ Tagos ng Dugo) – all of which have one common denominator: a sound social commentary on the various problems of society.

Maryo J. de los Reyes had always wanted to be a director even at the age of six. In kindergarten at Letran, he was already putting up small plays for the school. His interest in the arts continued all the way to the intermediate grades at the Malate Catholic School.

When he was about to enter high school, however, he took a detour and went to the minor seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Makati. Looking back, he didn’t really think he wanted to be a priest. It was more like a fad because so many others in his school were going to the seminary.

By the time he reached his junior year, he knew that joining the priesthood was not really his calling. Even the school prefect encouraged him to leave the seminary after high school and pursue instead a career in communications. In his last year in high school, he took the UPCAT, was admitted by the State University and took up Broadcast Communications.

One summer, his mother – then dean of home economics at the Philippine Women’s University – encouraged him to join the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. But on his way to PWU where the world-famous dance company was based, he boarded the wrong jeepney from their home in Sta. Cruz. Instead of Quiapo-Taft, he took the Quiapo-Pier route and saw Lutgardo Labad on board. Lutgardo – an old acquaintance from seminary school – was already in PETA that time and invited Maryo to join the cast of Paul Dumol’s, Hoy, Boyet, which the theater group was then staging. This was where Maryo J first met Lino Brocka, who – along with Lorli Villanueva – was teaching the rudiments of theater to young PETA members.

In spite of his active involvement in theater, Maryo managed to get his Broadcast Communications degree from UP. After college, he received a grant to further pursue his thesis. This brought him to different countries in Europe – with Switzerland as his base since his sister lived there. He also took this opportunity to take up various theater workshops that taught him everything there is to learn about theater – from directing to running the booth.

Upon his return to Manila in 1976, he received a call from Cecile Guidote who wanted him to see Lupita Concio (now Kashiwahara). Lupita was then about to start filming Alkitrang Dugo, which Nora Aunor was producing as a vehicle for her brother, Eddie Boy Villamayor. Lupita wanted Maryo to conduct an acting workshop for the young cast members – with Nora herself joining the sessions. Maryo was eventually hired to act as drama coach for Alkitran and even in Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo. Shortly after, he joined television and directed the children’s show, Ano Ba ’Yan? for the now-defunct National Media Production Center.

It only took a couple of years for him to finally realize his dream of directing a film. Agrix Films was producing High School Circa and project coordinator Tom Adrales recommended Maryo to direct the movie. Maryo was the perfect choice because High School Circa had a big cast of youngsters and he had a lot of training handling young people in Alkitran.

High School Circa ’65
turned out to be an impressive directorial debut for him. Aside from the positive reviews, it also did very well at the box office.

After 25 years, Maryo J. de los Reyes is still among the busiest directors in the local TV and movie scene and is even said to be the highest paid. (I guess you pay for quality.)

Much awaited is the release of Magnifico, a film with a powerhouse cast: Lorna Tolentino, Albert Martinez, Celia Rodriguez, Mark Gil, Tonton Gutierrez, Amy Austria, Cherry Pie Picache, Susan Africa, Girlie Sevilla, Isabella de Leon and Jiro Mano.

The movie received rave reviews when it had its premiere night at the CCP last Thursday. Maryo, of course, wouldn’t comment on his film, except to say that it’s one of his top favorites, among his works. He is being modest, that’s for sure. I have yet to see the film (we are reviewing it for the Cinema Evaluation Board on Monday), but people whose judgment I trust all say that Magnifico may end up as the best picture of 2003. Let’s wait and see.

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