Judy Ann Santos ‘grateful’ for first MMFF entry in 7 years; reveals challenges filming ‘Mindanao’

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Judy Ann Santos �grateful� for first MMFF entry in 7 years; reveals challenges filming �Mindanao�
Multi-awarded actress Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo on October 23 said that despite three decades of experience under her belt, her latest Metro Manila Film Festival project “Mindanao” offered new acting challenges.

MANILA, Philippines — Multi-awarded actress Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo on Wednesday said that despite three decades of experience under her belt, her latest Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) project “Mindanao” offered new acting challenges.

“Nakaka-tense. Iniisip ko pa lang kung anong mangyayari parang pagod na ko,” Santos said, delightedly recalling the shoot, in an interview with media at the launch of Coco Mama Gata event in Taguig City.

(It’s so tense. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted.)

Santos said she’s grateful to work on her first MMFF project in seven years with acclaimed indie filmmaker Brillante Mendoza.

“It’s my first movie with direk Brillante. That alone I’m proud of already,” Santos said.

“It’s been so long. Hindi ko na alam kung anong proseso ngayon (I don’t know how the festival will be conducted), but I’m excited.”

The actress’ last entry was “Si Agimat, si Enteng Kabisote at si Ako” in 2012.

Pushing boundaries

The first challenge Santos remembered in shooting "Mindanao" was having to carry a child for extensive periods of time.

“Ang bitbit kong bata, seven years old. Bitbit ko siya lagi. Hindi siya pwedeng maglakad,” the actress said.

(The seven-year-old I carried at all times couldn’t walk.)

“That and to act as natural as possible.”

A mountain of accolades serves as proof of Santos’ acting chops.

In 2007, she won many Best Actress awards for “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo,” which went on to be the highest-grossing entry and won all the categories it was nominated for at the 32nd MMFF.

She also won the Gawad Urian Best Actress award for "Sabel" in 2005.

What separates her role in “Mindanao” from the rest, Santos said, is the cultural sensitivity and balancing act of representing a way of life different from your own.

“Of course 'yung pinag-iingatan mo rin 'yung how the Muslims dress, how they move, how they talk. Kailangan mong ibigay 'yung respeto na ‘yun sa kanila kasi they value their religion,” she shared.

(Of course, you have to carefully portray how the Muslims dress, how they move, how they talk. You need to give them that respect because they value their religion.)

While MMFF is still on the horizon, Santos could prove to be a frontrunner in the acting category if reviews are any indication.

Her performance has been described by Variety as “de-glammed, gently anguished, remarkably sympathetic” and “a class apart from the rest of the picture” by Screen Daily.

Peripheries of cinema

Santos thanked the MMFF committee for including “Mindanao,” along with seven other entries in this year’s festival lineup.

“I hope everyone would support it. Hindi siya yung lalabas ka ng sinehan na happy 'yung puso mo ah (It’s not the type of movie where you leave the cinema feeling happy),” Santos cautioned.

“But it’s something that you know you’d be aware of… how people in Mindanao deal with their problems in war and illnesses like cancer.”

Santos said the film underscores the lack of access to cancer treatment faced by many Filipinos.

“Hindi lahat ay siniswerte sa ganyang aspeto. It has parts slightly awakening at some point na ang sad kasi may part pa pala na ganon sa Pilipinas na hindi nabibigyan ng atensyon.”

(Not everyone is so fortunate in that aspect. It has parts slightly awakening at some point, which is sad because there are still parts of the Philippines that are neglected.)

Showbiz comeback

When asked if she ever got tired of show business, the veteran actress had one thing to say.

“I am not complaining,” she said twice.

“I am just praying for energy and positivity to be able to do all these properly, and to be able to inspire — parang pang beauty pageant 'yung sagot ko (it’s like I’m answering a beauty pageant question),” she broke laughing mid-sentence.

Besides “Mindanao,” which has already graced international screens, Santos’ explosive return includes top-billing on Kapamilya teleserye “Starla” and a story arc on the long-running hit series “Ang Probinsyano.”

The star said she hopes to inspire young artists that “if you put your heart into your work that you love, it will never feel like work.”

She also said that despite being a recognized and accomplished actress, she never felt entitled to be a diva on set.

“Hindi ka mapapagod, hindi ka mabubugnot, hindi ka magiging diva sa set. Kasi maiintindihan mo na 'yung mga kasama mong nagtatrabaho do’n, nagtatrabaho nang mas doble, triple sa’yo pero ikaw 'yung isa sa may pinakamalaking bayad,” Santos drew the line.

(You can’t get tired, you can’t get impatient, and you can’t be a diva on the set. You come to understand that your co-workers, the crew, they work twice or thrice as hard but you’re still the one of the highest-paid in the production.)

“It’s unfair to, you know, give them a hard time just because you’re tired. It’s not acceptable.”

Santos did, however, have her fair share of vulnerability during her time off the small and big screens.

“Hindi ko inisip na makakabalik ako because after giving birth, parang kinain ko 'yung ganito kalaking katawan. Dumoble ako,” she said with equal emotion and humor, pointing to a life-size cardboard cutout of herself with a slimmer figure.

(I wasn’t sure if I still had a place in show business because after giving birth, it’s like I ate a body equivalent to my own. I doubled in size.)

“Alam mo ‘yun? At some point mawawalan ka ng lakas ng loob na ‘makakabalik pa ba ko?’”

(Can you relate? At some point, you just lose your resolve and the thought remains a ‘what if?’)

Santos finally struck a chord of positivity when she chose to “reset again.”

She’s found reassurance in true fans who continue to appreciate her projects and personality and with whom she can be herself.

“I am not the smartest celebrity there, but whatever I say alam nilang… gano’n ako magsalita. At naiintindihan nila na nagiging totoo ako sa sinasabi ko.”

(They know that’s just how I speak. They understand that I say what I do to keep it real.)

What’s next for Juday?

With the assurance that fans have given her, Santos has been emboldened to accept more challenging roles to “spice up” her career.

“Parang tapos na ko sa sabunutan, sampalan, pak. Okay na kong maging adventurous when it comes to characters.”

(I’m done with the hair-pulling and slapping. I’m okay with being adventurous when it comes to characters.)

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