Juday in 2020 âI will face my fearsâ
Judy Ann ‘Juday’ Santos screams with delight as she receives the MMFF Best Actress award for her role as the mother of a cancer-stricken child in Mindanao, directed by Brillante Mendoza
Juday in 2020 ‘I will face my fears’
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

If 2019 was a good year for Judy Ann “Juday” Santos, she looks forward to 2020 as an even better year. But first, she has to, in her own words, “face my fears” which she said she had already started in the year just passed.

“First on my list of fears is playing a real-life person,” Juday admitted, referring to the Mother Lily Monteverde biopic in which she is eyed for the titular role.

“It’s my first time to portray a living person.”

Having grown up with the Regal Matriarch (her first hit starrer, Sana Naman, with original loveteam-mate Wowie de Guzman, was produced by Regal), it’s presumed that she knows Mother Lily very well. But no, Juday begged your pardon, she has realized that there’s more to uncover about the multi-layered, colorfully complicated life of the iconic producer who created the Regal Babies.

“There will always be a comparison,” she explained, “at mataas ang expectation ng mga tao. It’s doing something out of my comfort zone. Dati, I didn’t have any idea which real-life person I wanted to portray and when I was offered to play Mother Lily, I thought, ‘Yes, she’s the perfect one!’ Who doesn’t know Mother Lily? An icon and a legend that everyone looks up to.

“Akala ko hindi na kelangan aralin pero ang dami pa palang dapat kong pag-aralan —- the way she talks, the way she shouts, ‘yung pagpirma nya ng post-dated checks, kung paano siya kumausap ng tatlong tao on three different phones at pati na kung paano niya ibinabato ang telepono. It will be an inspiring film kasi the audience will know how Mother Lily built the Regal Empire.”

Actually, Juday has long been veering away from her “comfort zone” (particularly rom-com), essaying heavy roles such as those in Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita (as a newly-married woman facing the coming of war in 1941), Sabel (as a woman portrayed as good and bad and charged with murder); and Ploning (as a dutiful daughter to a town patriarch and caregiver of the mother of a man who has abandoned her; submitted as entry in the 2009 Oscars’ Best Foreign-Language Film category). In the TV series Starla (concluded last Friday), she scored a “first” by playing a villainess (as a lawyer burdened with unresolved issues).

“There were many ‘firsts’ in 2019. I’d been invited to several events like a book fair for Judy Ann sketches, to several international filmfests including the one in Busan where I experienced my very first such event. That was when Mindanao had its world premiere. Sayang that due to conflict of schedules, I wasn’t able to attend the Cairo Film Festival na almost kasabay ng Tokyo filmfest.”

It was in Cairo where Juday won her first international Best Actress for Mindanao, followed by the same honor at the 45th (2019) MMFF duplicating her win in the same filmfest in 2006 for Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo (with husband Ryan Agoncillo).

How was her first time to work with Brillante Mendoza (MMFF Best Director)?

“It was an answered wish,” admitted Juday. “Matagal ko nang gustong maka-trabaho si direk Brillante. I watched his films, especially Ma’Rosa (which won Jaclyn Jose Best Actress in Cannes). I’ve been hearing a lot about how he works kaya gusto ko siyang ma-experience.”

It was a “learning” experience. The shoot was done in 2017 and Mindanao wasn’t really intended for the MMFF.

Iba ang style niya. He would guide you and when he couldn’t ‘feel’ your performance he would tell you pero hindi niya sasabihin kung paano mo dapat gawin. It’s up to you to interpret your role and ‘feel’ it.”

To flesh out her role as a mother taking care of her cancer-stricken daughter (Yona Tangog, Best Child Performer), while waiting for her husband (Allen Dizon, Best Actor) to return from serving as a medic soldier in the south, Juday said that she drew inspiration from her being a mother (of three in real life). 

“It becomes easy once you are already in character. Ang pinaghugutan ko ay ang pagiging nanay ko sa tunay na buhay. And also, from the testimonies of those from the House of Hope. Doon ako umangkla sa mga stories nila.

“We shot the movie for 12 days doon sana sa Davao where there is a House of Hope. But it was more cinematic if we did it in Manila where the House of Hope is really a house.”

Working with Allen was another “first” for Juday…

“Tahimik siya. Mabait. On the set, we talked about his kids and my kids, and how he would travel from Pampanga where his family lives to wherever his work was. Hindi mo matatawaran ang dedication niya sa trabaho niya and also to his family. He knows his priorities.”

…and with Yona, too…

“If you are a mother, playing that kind of role can be heavy here (pointing to her chest) and at the same time mabigat dalhin ’yung bata kaya doble ang bigat, hehehe! Yona is a good actress, considering that it’s her first acting job.”

Since she already won in Cairo, did Juday prepare a thank-you acceptance speech for the MMFF’s Gabi Ng Parangal?

“No, none at all. You know how it is dito sa Pilipinas, anything can happen. I convinced myself not to expect anything because not everybody is in favor of your performance. Why would I prepare a thank-you speech? Otherwise, people would say, ‘Ayan na, nag-e-expect na.’ You know how things go, people will criticize your every move.”

Her choice of projects now depends on her being a family woman.

“Family is a major factor,” stressed Juday. “Feeling ko, I have given so much of my life to showbiz because I started when I was very young. My life is an open book. I never had too much time for myself because I was so focused on my career. I’ve been doing so many things for so many people. Kung ano ang ipagawa sa akin ginagawa ko, no questions asked, walang tanung-tanong.

But things are different now than they were before.

“Now I am in a position that, you know, I’m not getting any younger so I want to spend more time with my family and at the same time do things that I really want to do. But my passion for acting remains, hindi nawawala ‘yan. Siempre, I want to do projects that my children will see and will be proud of. It’s so inspiring when the project that you do inspires people at maganda ang effect sa tao.”

Lest she be accused of being maarte, nag-iinarte, Juday hastened to add.

“It’s just that I am more of balancing my life as an actress and as a family woman. My world is okay when I see my husband and our children often, even if I am working. I realized that when I don’t see them a lot, nalulungkot ako at madali akong mainis at mawala sa mood, and that’s unfair naman to my co-workers na hindi naman dapat apektado.”

And the question that has been haunting her all these years — what about working with Piolo Pascual again?

Juday laughed. “It’s the same question the press has been asking me over and over again. My only answer is this: Hindi nawawala sa usapan ‘yan. I’m just waiting for the right project.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

JUDY ANN SANTOS MINDANAO
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