EDSA: The movie that stopped traffic
Cheeko B. Ruiz (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - There are as many stories as there are people who daily traverse Metro Manila’s main artery, the highway known as EDSA. The hundreds of thousands of motorists and commuters as well as pedestrians who use the 21-kilometer thoroughfare every day all have stories to tell, dreams to fulfill, heartaches and problems to solve, joys and triumphs to celebrate – certainly fertile ground for a movie.

Producer Donna Sanchez and director Alvin Yapan have done just that – made a gem of a movie about three lives touched and changed by EDSA.

“It’s the heart of the Philippines,” says Sanchez, who had participated in the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution and whose idea it was to make a movie about EDSA. “Anybody can relate when you talk about EDSA. If you can’t even control that, what hope do we have?”     

It was a vindication of sorts for the producer, cast and crew of the movie EDSA when the film was named Best Picture at the World Premieres Film Festival last month.

The movie, after all, caused huge traffic jams on its first shooting day last November, earning the ire of stranded motorists.

“On the first day of shooting, we caused traffic from Santolan to Balintawak. We were in the news,” director Yapan says.

Sanchez relates that officials of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority wanted to meet with her because of the incident.

“We obtained a permit to block off two lanes for a shooting of two hours, which was later reduced to just one lane. But traffic still became unavoidable because the motorists either stopped or slowed down to take pictures,” she says.

“But people could see now that we did not waste that chance,” Yapan adds.

Aside from Best Picture, EDSA also garnered four other awards – Best Cinematography, Best Ensemble Acting, Best Editing and Best Sound Engineering.

“They collapsed the best supporting actor and actress awards and came up with the best ensemble performance award even if they did not have that category. I guess that goes to show how good our actors are,” beams Yapan.

Hayden Kho, for instance, no longer wanted to come out in movies, but he fell in love with the script.

“He was perfect for the role of an opportunistic businessman who had an eye-opening experience. Apart from a very good performance, he was a standout in the MRT scenes because he was towering at 6’3”,” the director says.

Showing a day along EDSA, a microcosm of the Philippines, the movie has three intersecting stories: that of the opportunistic entrepreneur (Hayden) who develops a bond with a street kid (John Manalo) who helps him get to his business meeting in Makati after losing his cell phone to a snatcher; that of a provincial teacher (Sue Prado) who debates with a former overseas worker turned taxi driver (Allen Dizon) on the need for world standards in basic education; and that of a snatcher (Aljur Abrenica) trying to reform himself by returning what he stole with the help of a nurse (Kris Bernal).

“Even for just one day, EDSA changed the characters,” says Yapan.

Sanchez says they are humbled by the citations because they put a lot of effort into the movie.

“There were big players in the competition, which is now on its third year. We were one of the six nominated in the new Philippine cinema category,” she says.

It was mind-boggling both for those on the creative and logistics side, with almost everyone saying “No, you can’t shoot here, there etc.”

“Every time we were shooting, we were like, ‘will we be able to finish this?’” Sanchez shares.

Yapan sees the contemporary light drama as a milestone.

“In this movie, we were able to capture in one moment the culture in EDSA,” says the director whose movie entry, An Kubo sa Kawayanan (The House in the Bamboo Grove), also won four awards at the World Premieres Film Festival last year.

“With that alone, we’re very proud that it set a record.”

EDSA will be shown at the Cinemalaya Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Aug. 12 at 6:15 p.m.

Sanchez says they have also coordinated with the Department of Education for the movie to be shown to students.

“When we conceptualized the movie, I really wanted it for the students. It would be a good medium to start the conversation. We were looking forward to a PG rating from the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) and we got it,” says Yapan, who even prepared a 10-page lesson plan about the film.

“During the movie, you can just sit back and eat popcorn. But later you can talk about it. This was very prominent at the question and answer portion during the gala evening. There were mostly teachers and students. I knew that it would provoke thinking. But it was very nice to see that they got the message,” he adds.

While people from different social classes can come together toward a common goal of progress, the promise of change is and will always be a perpetual journey, just like the journey taken daily by thousands along EDSA.

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