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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

After 27 years, Claudine & Mark reunite onscreen in ‘Deception’

Vanessa A. Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Last seen together in the 1995 film “Mangarap Ka” when they were still teenagers in the throes of puppy love, Claudine Barretto and Mark Anthony Fernandez’s long overdue onscreen reunion  has finally been realized in a drama-mystery that’s befitting of the comeback of an Optimum Star, and the maturity of two often beleaguered, yet capable actors.

After countless attempts in the past years to resurrect their team-up, the former couple and ‘90s love team believe they found the perfect material in “Deception”,  a film by esteemed director Joel Lamangan that’s now streaming on Vivamax.

Claudine, whose last film was Star Cinema’s “Etiquette for Mistresses” in 2015, said she couldn’t find a reason to say no to the project. For one, the producer happens to be her best friend who had promised that his first filmmaking venture would be her comeback. Second, the script was too good to pass up on. Knowing who will direct ultimately sealed the deal.

“My fear at first was, my acting might be stiff. But with the help of Direk Joel and Mark, everything went well,” Claudine, 42, told interviewers during a Zoom conference.

Produced by Viva Films and Borracho Film Production, “Deception” tells the story of Rose (Claudine) a famous actress, and Jericho (Mark) a stunt double, who fall in love and get married. They are blessed with a son that they name Thomas (Miggs Cuaderno).

It looks like a blissful domestic life brimming with love, but what seems to be a promising future for their family starts spiraling down after Rose is convicted for killing her husband and is sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment. With Rose in prison and Jericho’s death, their son is taken to an orphanage and learns to live without his parents.

As Rose’s time in prison ends, she tries to start anew by finding and reconnecting with her estranged son, who is now a teenager. But her troubled past starts to catch up with her and with it, lies are revealed. She soon discovers why her almost perfect life went crumbling down.

“With their experiences mas lalo naging malalim ang kanilang perception sa realidad na kinakaharap nila and they were able to translate it in their acting,” said Lamangan of Claudine and Mark.

Lawyer-producer Ferdie Topacio, who calls Claudine his BFF and vice-versa, made a  good point when he said that “personal lives should be beside the point”, referring to the actress’ string of family controversies that have eclipsed her career achievements.

“Me and Claudine go back a long way. We’ve been friends since 2019. Marami na rin kaming pinagdaanan na mga laban, you all know that so I won’t elaborate. Once I got to know her, I really thought she was a gem. The industry needs her,” said Topacio. “Wala akong pinatatamaan, but in a world where there are many actresses na walang lalim, we  need a Claudine Barretto to show them how it is done. This is how acting should be. So let’s concentrate on what she and Mark can give to the industry.”

Topacio and Lamangan felt Claudine and Mark’s calibre called for a story that would showcase their growth, both as individuals and as actors.

“I wanted the film to stand out kasi yung mga rom-com days nila…of course they have matured considerably not only in age but in their artistry. So I wanted to plumb the depths of their growth as artists,” said Topacio, who also composed the theme song for “Deception.”

“In the film, we got to mine the entire gamut of their emotions. I’m a cineaste and I was star struck with the amount of talent on set.”

Topacio has been Claudine’s attorney in several legal battles – those experiences of which he said is somewhat mirrored in “Deception”.

“Not only will you be entertained, it also has something to say about society and our justice system,” he explained. “Naranasan namin ni Claudine yan: na minsan ikaw na ang nagsasabi ng totoo, ikaw na ang nasa tama, ikaw pa ang minamasama at bina-bash.”

“Hidden in the heavy drama is a sort of indictment of the justice system. That sometimes because of technicalities, the innocent is convicted and jailed. You can see how a false conviction can ruin a life.”

“Deception” is just the first in Topacio’s film production ventures. He’s in the middle of wrapping up shoot for “Mamasapano” (a depiction of the SAF 44 tragedy), and will  be pitching a sexy drama starring newcomers to Viva. Also in the pipeline is a biopic on Kingdom of Jesus Christ church leader, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

As for Claudine, she said she’s no stranger to deception. Being in the spotlight has made her even more vulnerable to betrayal, she lamented. “If you come from a bad breakup, talagang mahihirapan ka na mag-trust sa tao. Lalo na kung artista ka hindi mo alam if what you’re confiding to someone, ipagkakalat. Mahirap talaga to find good people to surround ourselves with.”

These days, she said she’s doing much better, calling the recent New Year as the best she’s had so far after celebrating with former estranged family members and “being able to enjoy my nephews and nieces again.”

“I’m stronger now because of everything I’ve gone through. I learned a lot with every trial,” added Claudine, who is running for a council seat in OIongapo City but is not slowing down showbiz-wise as she is set to start a show and a film after the campaign period.

One person that has never deceived her and continues to be her protector, in fact, is Mark, said Claudine.

“Kahit babaero si Mark, never niya ako sinaktan in any way where I was deceived, or naisahan ako or naloko ko. Ever since maganda ang samahan namin, until now because he is such a gentleman. Kung pwede ka nga niyang pagtakpan, pagtatakpan ka niya kung anong nangyayari sa buhay mo para lang hindi ka masaktan.”

While she’s always known that Mark – the son of industry veterans Alma Moreno and the late Rudy Fernandez – is a gifted actor, she particularly noted how he has grown by leaps and bounds.

“Mas lumalim siya bilang actor, he really studied his role,” she said. “He’s become more adventurous and he really explored in this film.”

CLAUDINE BARRETTO

MARK ANTHONY FERNANDEZ

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