Gil Portes at his best

Ronnie King - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There’s no doubt that Gil Portes is at his best when directing small-town films. Films which focus on small-town values, customs, traditions, virtues, beliefs and, yes, vices.

Look, films like Mga Munting Tinig, Saranggola and Gatas competed at the Oscars (Best Foreign Language Film category) and were shown in international film festivals.

Gil is soon coming up with another small-town film, Bayang Magiliw, which promises to be shown abroad. It tells the story of a town named Magiliw whose mayor (played by Wendell Ramos) controls the lives of his constituents, while he himself leads an unsavory life.

Sharing stellar billing with Wendell are Giselle Tongi, Arnold Reyes, Lloyd Samartino, Raquel Villavicencio and Jackie Lou Blanco.

Like many of his small movies, Bayang Magiliw was shot in Pagbilao, Quezon, where Gil was born and grew up. The film was actually inspired by a local politician who had long ago left the town.

Other Gil Portes film inspired by or based upon real people were Miguel/Michelle (transsexual) and Wag Kang Kikibo… (false prophet).

While his subjects may be parochial and distinctly Pinoy, they nevertheless have international appeal. The foreign audiences relate to and appreciate them. His films have been screened all over the world: Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Honolulu, Moscow, Brussels, Mar de Plata in Argentina, among other cities.

This is not to say that Gil isn’t equal to big movies. He directed Dolphy in the World War II movie Markova, which chronicles the travails of a “comfort gay,” the time span from the ’20s to the ’90s. Markova gave Dolphy the Best Actor/Actress (yes, both categories) at the Brussels filmfest, which he shared with sons Eric and Epy Quizon, playing the young Markova.

Gil considers directing Dolphy as one of the highlights of his career.

He also directed two great actresses, Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos.

Nora in Merika, called by critics as the definitive film on the plight of alienated and lonely Filipinos in the US. Another Aunor starrer he directed was Andrea, which won many awards, including Best Picture, Director, Script (Ricky Lee) and Actress.

Vilma topbilled Miss X, shot in Amsterdam, the story of a mother who ended up a prostitute, displayed in “glass windows” in the city’s red light district.

Other movies he shot abroad were Carnival in Rio (Brazil), Wanted: Wives (partly shot in Hong Kong), Minsan May Pangarap (New York) and Barcelona (Spain).

But then his heart really and truly belongs to Pagbilao…even if he’s based in New York with his family, wife Telly and sons Carlo and Justin. Telly is a professor in a NY college, while Carlo and Justin work in investment firms in Manhattan. He even studied masters abroad, City University of NY and BBC of London. He finished Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas.

Gil collaborated on the story of Bayang Magiliw with Eric Ramos, who came up with a wonderful script, capturing the flavor and atmosphere of a small town, at once serious and funny.

The directory also produced the small-town film, gathering tested and neophyte cast and staff.

Also in the cast are Althea Vega, Sue Prado, Princess Manzon, Rob Sy, Benjie Felipe, Jess Evardone, AJ Dee, Gino dela Peña, Dax Alejandro, Tony Mabesa, Ellen Adarna and the people of his beloved town Pagbilao.











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