Vilma Santos looks back on iconic scenes in ‘Anak’

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Vilma Santos looks back on iconic scenes in �Anak�
Vilma Santos attends the special screening of ‘Anak’ at St. Paul University in Quezon City as part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Lakbay Sine and Cine Icons programs that bring cinematic masterpieces of National Artists closer to the younger generation.

MANILA, Philippines — In the ending of the film “Anak” released 24 years ago, Vilma Santos, playing an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) mom, could be seen weaving through a sea of fellow OFWs in the bustling streets of Hong Kong while reading news from home on a handwritten letter — a scene that would become an iconic moment in Philippine cinema.

To this day, the veteran star could still not forget how that particular scene tested her in ways she had never experienced before.

Vilma got to reminisce about the making of “Anak” during its special screening and talkback session at St. Paul University in Quezon City on Friday. The event was part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ ongoing Lakbay Sine and Cine Icons programs that bring cinematic masterpieces of National Artists closer to the younger generation.

“Anak” was written by National Artist for Broadcast and Film Ricky Lee (with Moira Lang) under the direction of Rory Quintos.

Vilma shared how they pulled off the scene that took place in central Hong Kong on a Sunday.

“We intentionally chose Sunday because that’s when all the OFWs gather in Hong Kong,” Vilma said of the backdrop for one of the film’s most pivotal moments.

When the cameras rolled, Vilma, as the domestic helper Josie, was expected to blend seamlessly into the crowd without drawing attention to herself. “Our schedule was supposedly 7 a.m., so as early as 6 a.m. nandoon na kami sa hotel sa taas. Nandoon sa baba ‘yung mga get-together nung mga OFWs. Three cameras were being set up.

“They didn’t know I was part of the scene,” she further explained. “Our plan was that once it started, we would signal each other quietly so as not to disrupt the crowd.”

What seemed like a straightforward task soon turned into a daunting challenge.

“When they gave the signal, around seven or eight, all the OFWs were there,” Vilma recounted.

As she slowly descended from the hotel, trying not to attract notice, people recognized her the minute she stepped out of the door.

Despite efforts to remain incognito, the Star for all Season’s presence inevitably electrified the crowd, causing a commotion. “Nagkagulo na, nanay ko, believe me, they had to pull me back upstairs… But they already knew I was there.”

Amidst the chaos, direk Rory devised a plan to salvage the moment, mounting a crane that was used to capture the scene from above and urging the crowd to cooperate.

“On the megaphone, she was saying, ‘You know, this movie ‘Anak’ that we’re shooting, this is your story… we’re just asking (for cooperation) because Vilma Santos is here and she’s playing your role as an OFW. This scene is important because it’s what shapes our story here in Hong Kong.’

“We’re just asking that when Miss Vilma Santos passes by, please don’t pay attention to her. (We need) just one shot… Dapat walang titingin, walang magkakagulo, nakikiusap po kami. Pwede ho ba? ‘Opo!’”

However, when they shot the scene again, Vilma was mobbed. In the end, it was the actress herself who went up the crane to plead with the Pinoy crowd to help them finish the scene.

It took a whole day and a collective effort to bring that scene to life. And although it wasn’t perfect — because if you look at it now, there were still people filmed looking at her, as pointed out by Vilma — it remains a perfect scene to represent and shed light on the lived reality and experiences of OFWs in Hong Kong.

With National Artist Ricky Lee (right), screenwriter of ‘Anak,’ while entertaining questions from students during the talkback session.

Another scene that stood out for Vilma was her intense confrontation between her and Claudine Barretto who played her daughter Carla.

After a series of rebellious actions from Carla — bringing a boyfriend home, running away from home, doing drugs and getting pregnant twice — and her blaming all these on Vilma for being an absentee mother, the latter couldn’t take it anymore. This resulted in a heartrending monologue about maternal anguish and struggles.

“It’s really hard being a mom, you know, it’s not easy. I’m a mom, so I should know. Iba yung pakiramdam ng isang ina. Sometimes, what’s said in the dialogue is true, nakakapagod din maging nanay,” Vilma reflected.

“If you watched the movie, all the sacrifices, all the understanding she did for her child, but at the latter part, her love and sacrifices still weren’t given importance. That’s why in that scene, the mom broke down. That’s what’s very memorable to me.”

It was also memorable for its technical execution. She revealed it was done in one single take, adding to the intensity and authenticity of the moment. The actress credited the director’s commitment to bring out her raw emotion without interruption with the help of the digital filmmaking techniques.

“When we were shooting that, it was already five a.m. in the morning… What direk Rory did, pinaaral niya yung buong eksena mula dun sa pinto na pinagsasampal ko siya (Claudine’s Carla). Yung nagalit na ako sa kanya na sinampal ko from the door until lumapit yung mga anak ko na bumigay ako.”

Direk Rory used two cameras for that scene — one was for the master shot, where everything could be seen, and the other one was focused only on her.

“She said, ‘Wherever you want to go, whether you stand up, sit down, the camera will follow you, depending on your mood or the emotions you’re feeling.’ Before we shot that scene, Claudine and I didn’t talk. I was memorizing my lines.”

This was because, due to revisions, she only got the script a few hours earlier and memorized all of it during dinner time.

“When direk said, ‘Ready for take,’ we only did one take… one continuous scene. It was memorable to me because if you notice, even the emotions I showed in that scene were continuous.

“It’s a big help when emotions flow continuously and you have a great director guiding you, because my director didn’t say ‘cut’... I’ve been in this business for 60 years, so I’ve experienced the hardships of having scenes cut abruptly. You cry here, cut, then later you have to cry again, emote, cut, because back then, we used actual films. Now it’s digital,” she said.

Vilma’s recounting of her favorite scenes encapsulates not only the artistry and craftsmanship of filmmaking but also the legacy of storytelling in Philippine cinema. During the talkback session, Vilma credited the Sagip Pelikula program under ABS-CBN Film Restoration head Leo Katigbak for reintroducing these restored classics like “Anak” to new audiences, including those who weren’t even born when it was made.

When “Anak” was offered to Vilma, there was another movie script pitched to her that was “pang-award” where she was supposed to play a teacher.

What convinced her to take on this project was because she deeply connected with its theme, Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak,” plus she got to work with younger actors like Claudine and Baron Geisler, who portrayed one of her children.

Then, it’s a story about a single OFW mom who does everything in her power to keep her family from breaking apart.

“Of course, (It’s by) Ricky Lee and direk Rory, known as a great TV director, so I took the chance. And pasok ako kaagad sa role, maybe because malapit ako sa magulang ko, malapit ako sa nanay ko (I’m close to my parents, I’m close to my mom). And I grew up in a family that’s intact.”

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with