Gloria Sevilla in a scene with comedienne Alora Sasam and Vincent Ranillo in Pagbalik, the only Visayan film among the 10 official entries in the Third Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) from Sept. 13 to 19.
Will the Visayan film industry be revived?
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Dormant for many years now, the Visayan movie industry is sorely missed perhaps not only by the older but also by the younger generation. I’m sure the industry has a market that now includes Visayan not only in the Visayas and Mindanao area but also elsewhere in the country…and even Visayan OFWs.

Well, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Ask Suzette Ranillo, daughter of Mat Ranillo Jr. and Gloria Sevilla, the King and Queen of the Visayan movie industry.

“Yes,” said Suzette, “I intend to continue my parents’ legacy.”

Note that mother and daughter made history in 1974 with a back-to-back win as FAMAS Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for the Visayan drama flick Gimingaw Ako (I Feel Lonesome), helmed by the late Amado Cortez, Gloria’s second husband.

Forty-five years later, the two durable thespians are reunited in the new Visayan tearjerker Pagbalik (Return), a heart-breaking drama that marks Gloria’s triumphant return to the big screen after winning Best Supporting Actress at last year’s Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (PIFF) in the US for the indie film Maestra.

Pagbalik is one of the 10 official entries (showing nationwide) to the Third Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) from Sept. 13 to 19, spearheaded by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), led by Liza Diño, with the theme Pamilya, Pagkakaibigan, Pag-ibig.

Produced by Nuances Entertainment Production and PRO, in cooperation with Wildsound, Pagbalik is one of three chosen films under PPP’s Sandaan showcase in line with the 100th anniversary of Philippine Cinema. The regional film (in black and white) is in Cebuano with English subtitles.

Directed by Suzette herself (using her real name Maria S. Ranillo), Pagbalik also stars Vincent Ranillo, a De La Salle University student and Gloria’s real-life grandson in his big screen debut, with the special participation of comedienne Alora Sasam.

Gloria(above) and her daughter Suzette Ranillo made history in 1974 with a backto-back win as FAMAS Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for the Visayan film Gimingaw Ako. Forty-five years later, they are reunited in the new Visayan tearjerker Pagbalik.

The story revolves around the interpersonal relationships of three family members — devoted son Vincent (Vincent) yearning for his mother’s affection, struggling OFW mother Rica (Suzette) who is willing to sacrifice to provide for her family, and an ailing grandmother Choleng (Gloria) who seems oblivious to the quiet agony of her daughter and grandson.

Set in the 1970s in Cebu, Rica returns home after working overseas to take care of Choleng under the watch of her son Vincent who himself is dealing with the absence of his mother and the burden of caring for his grouchy grandmother all by himself.

When she lands a new job contract for abroad, Rica finds herself torn between staying and leaving again. Distraught, she finds out what her mother has done all the years she was away working.

“Pagbalik is a quiet family drama which people of all ages can relate to,” said Suzette. “The story is very simple, but it will touch the heart of every one, including the millennials who, in their young minds, are sometimes left with unimaginable responsibilities due to circumstances beyond their control. So, I hope a lot of people get to watch the film. It’s a story of our lives.”

It’s not the first time Suzette has directed her mother. The first was the widely-acclaimed drama CareHome topbilled by Nora Aunor and shot in California.

“It’s not easy to direct your own mother,” Suzette claimed with a wide grin. “Like when I would instruct her, ‘Okay mom you do it this way,’ she would snap back, ‘Bakit ganoon? It should be this way, the level of emotions should be that way.’ But she eventually listened.”

Pagbalik has received positive reviews from handpicked millennial viewers when it was previewed in selected schools in the Visayas and Mindanao. In all those screenings, many students cried buckets. Much praise was extended to the cast, including newbie Vince Ranillo for his impressive performance as a millennial caught in the middle of his family’s difficult situation.

Suzette Ranillo

Excerpts from an interview with Suzette:

How was Pagbalik conceptualized?

“Pagbalik is a quiet family drama inspired by true experiences of my friends and my own personal experience. Mom was my inspiration for this film. I want to inspire those who are struggling in caring for their elderly parent/s. In the end, we will all be rewarded for loving them and having compassion, patience, understanding.

Is it your first family project?

“No, not our first family project. Aside from Gimingaw Ako, we were together in Matud Nila, Pailub Lang, the TV family comedy show, Mommy Ko si Mayor and the TV drama special Victor Soledad.”

First time ba na may Visayan movie sa PPP (with Tagalog and English sub-titles)?

“The Visayan-Tagalog film Patay na si Hesus was a PPP movie. I think it was part of PPP Year 1. Pagbalik is 100 percent Visayan with English subtitles. All 10 PPP Year 3 entries are required to have English subtitles.”

How many movies were produced by the Visayan movie industry?

“Our family produced around 25 films and the same number by other companies. My mom also produced Tagalog films. Unfortunately, only Badlis sa Kinabuhi is in the archive. It was restored in Australia thru SOFIA. The rest are gone. Badlis is 50 years old this year. It was our dad’s last film before he died in a plane crash.”

So you are determined to reviving the Visayan movie industry?

“Of course! Pagbalik is part of it. It’s a hard climb. I hope that the Visayan films (regional films) get equal amount of support as do the Tagalog films.”

(E-mail reactions at For more updates, photos and videos, visit or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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