Baler: A story waiting to be told
FUNFARE - FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo () - September 12, 2008 - 12:00am

Curtain-raisers:

• As I’ve been saying, stars (or anybody for that matter) shouldn’t be mean to waiters. Or else...Case in point: A young actor described to be maangas (boastful) went to a coffee shop and literally ordered a waiter around. The waiter appeared calm when he brought the actor his tall glass of orange juice. As the actor sipped the cold drink, the waiter watched from afar, smiling with quiet vengeance. Guess what he did to get back at the rough-mannered actor: He mixed the orange juice with his pee. Hmmmm...delicious!?!

• A womanizer actor separated from his actress-wife thought that the then young actress (daughter of an actor) he was setting his eyes on was, well, sweet and innocent. Imagine when he found out during their first nightout how well-versed the actress was with the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, showing him all the, ehem, “positions” there were in the book! Yup. To paraphrase Melanie Marquez’s oft-quoted line, Don’t judge her, she’s not a book.

• Ronnie Liang has been making it appear in the media that he and Sarah Geronimo are “on,” promising to bring Sarah to his “mansion.” But Sarah insists that Ronnie is just her friend,” adding with a subtle hint of sarcasm, “What ‘mansion’ is he talking about?”

Well, maybe Ronnie is following what Sen. Chiz Escudero said when asked about 2010, “Anybody can dream. Libre ang mangarap.” Okay, Ronnie, keep on dreaming! Incidentally, at 20, Sarah is said to be one of the very, very few remaining virgins in showbiz. Would you believe that she hasn’t had a boyfriend?

* * *

The story was supposed to have actually happened in 1898 when a 57-man Rifle Batallion of the Spanish military, unaware that the war had actually ended, heroically defended Baler town in Quezon Province against the Filipino forces for 337 days.

Against that background, a beautiful love story was born between a Filipina and a half-Indio/half-Spanish soldier. The girl’s father, who is a member of the rebel movement, is against the romance so the young lovers kept it a secret. The girl is played by Anne Curtis, the soldier by Jericho Rosales and the father by Phillip Salvador.

That, in gist, is what Baler is all about. Directed by Mark Meily (La Visa Loca, Crying Ladies, etc.) from a screenplay by Roy Iglesias, it is Viva Films’ official entry in the Metro Manila Filmfest this year.

As you can see, while Baler is a story of conflict, betrayal, suffering, self-preservation, selfishness, obstinacy and self-interest, it is also a story of heroism, courage, love of freedom, patriotism, endurance, chivalry, humanity and, above, a noble story of love in time of war.

Let’s listen to what scriptwriter Iglesias has to say:

I’ve long wanted to write a film on the siege of Baler. The idea came to me 28 years ago when a friend showed me an article about the last stand of the Spaniards in the Philippines and commented on how wonderful it would be to do a film on it. I did further research but discovered that all of the accounts simply highlighted the Spanish viewpoint.

Last year saw a convergence of interests when Viva Films asked me to write the screenplay of Baler.

The screenplay of Baler draws attention to and memorializes a historic episode that has long been forgotten and reduced to a mere footnote in our history books. Combining fact and fiction, the screenplay dramatizes love in a time of war at the end of the 19th century when the country was on the cusp of nationhood. It was a period of heroism and courage, a time when people faced death with dignity in the name of their cherished beliefs. Through the fictional characters of the local lass Feliza Reyes and the half-Spaniard/half-Filipino Celso Resurrecion, the story weaves real events with imagined incidents as fictional characters interact with historic real-life figures of the long siege.

Unlike most existing historic accounts, the Baler screenplay tries to present the Filipino point of view on the issue of the siege and the international significance of the event for the fledgling Philippine Republic.

And now, from direk Meiley:

There are two historic events in the Philippines that I wanted to do a film about — Magellan’s voyage and the siege of Baler. It was probably serendipitous when Viva’s Vincent del Rosario mentioned to me in one meeting that they were about to produce a film on the last stand of the Spanish army in Baler. I said to myself, “I have to do that film. I can never forgive myself if I open the newspaper one day and see that a film on Baler was made by another director.”

My first encounter with the beauty and mystery of Baler happened in 1989 when I was shooting a travelogue for the Department of Tourism. I will never forget the long drive from Quezon upwards, the roadside waterfalls, the surfing and, of course, the church.

There is nothing unique about the architecture of the San Luis Obispo Church. To an ordinary tourist, perhaps this church could be just any church until, of course, you get to know the drama that happened 110 years ago here. A great story of war which surprisingly is practically unknown to many Filipinos. It is the story of love, perseverance, honor and faith. Imagine, a war story where the opposing forces are both victims and victors.

There are many challenges in telling the story of the siege of Baler. There are conflicting accounts, versions, few documentation, and authenticity without boring the audience, and a tight schedule and budget. We did a lot of research not only on the siege but how the Filipino lived, eat and speak during that fateful time in Baler. What I am so happy about isthe passion of everyone in the production team to put this film together. In a time when Filipinos rarely show interest in historical films, Baler should be that one film that should defy that belief.

The film also stars Baron Geisler, Bernard Palanca, Carlo Aquino, Joel Torre, Mark Bautista, Michael de Mesa, DJ Durano and Ryan Eigenmann.

Now, the question: Did Celso Resurrecion and Feliza Reyes have a child or children? Are the children’s children, if any, still alive and living in Baler?

It’s for the movie to answer.

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

ANNE CURTIS AS I BALER BARON GEISLER BERNARD PALANCA BUT SARAH FILM RONNIE STORY VIVA FILMS
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