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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Coleen Garcia descends into madness in domestic thriller ‘Kaluskos’

Vanessa Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Crawfords are on a roll: After Billy Crawford’s win at “Danse Avec Les Stars” in Paris, France, his wife Coleen Garcia last Saturday woke up to news that she was selected Best Actress at the El Grito International Fantastic Film Festival in Venezuela for her performance in Viva Films’ “Kaluskos”.

Directed by Roman Perez Jr., with a screenplay by Enrique Villasis, the psychological thriller was among the entries at this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival before it was recently released in mainstream cinemas.

“It’s fulfilling but I always feel like I can do more,” Garcia said during a digital conference on the glowing reviews of her portrayal. “There are times when I watch myself and I still cringe. My goal is to get to that point where I’ll no longer cringe and I’m just completely happy with my work. There’s always room to improve, and I’m happy that I’m slowly getting there.

In “Kaluskos”, Garcia’s Rebekah files for sole custody for her young daughter Amaya (Queenzy Calma). But this doesn’t sit well with her estranged husband Jay (Karl Medina). Amid the custody battle, Rebekah finds another ‘Amaya’ under the bed. When the other Amaya emerges, Rebekah feels the motherly connection that she lost with her daughter.

The other Amaya insists that she is the real one trapped under the bed because of a curse, and the other one is the impostor. Wanting to start a new life with the other Amaya, Rebekah seeks to set her free. But to do that, she needs to kill the impostor. Cara Gonzales and Elora Españo also star.

Perez first pitched the doppelganger concept to Viva in 2018, but was told to park it in the meantime since the production company’s consecutive horror releases “didn’t prosper” that time. While on standby, the film was passed around to various film festivals, up until their surprise inclusion at Cinemalaya 2022.

“Hindi sa nagpapauso kami ng writer ko na si Enrique Villasis, but we define this as a ‘domestic thriller’ – a new term we’re using,” said Perez. “It’s more of domestic drama rather than horror.”

Expected role

To prepare for the film, Perez examined “a kind of feminism that exists from within, which also presents a mental health movement in regards to domestic violence.”

“Kaluskos”, shot for a mere five days, seeks to remind audiences not to belittle women, especially moms, as they find ways to solve their problems in whatever way.

“In filmmaking, it is very important to tell not just the truth about society but also those that society is afraid of or deems inconvenient to talk about,” Perez indicates in his director’s notes.

“‘Kaluskos’ is a psychological domestic thriller about domestic violence: a mother who has challenges performing her expected role that makes her look bad to others. We see a mother-daughter relationship challenged by different factors.”

As the ex-husband now living with another woman, Medina found his role challenging, yet enjoyable. “The characters have their darkness and the husband has his own darkness na kailangan timplahin because as they say, yung masasamang tao, hindi nila alam na masama sila,” the son of acclaimed actor Pen Medina shared.

Garcia relished dissecting the script and felt like a student all over again as she took pains in developing her role of a mom that “descends into madness.”

“With my previous scripts, what you see is what you get. Ito kasi, may pagka-lalim. There are so many ways to deliver the lines,” she said. “I really loved the material. I was excited for this project because this is the genre I’ve been waiting for. It’s a role I could play with. I felt like I had more room to explore the character.”

Explaining Rebekah further, the 30-year-old actress added, “She went through a lot that brought out the worst in her. She starts off having a custody battle with her husband. Yung anak niya kasi hindi niya masyado nakakasama, hindi siya tutok sa anak niya because she’s very career-oriented. Now that the child is with her, she tries to spend time with her but she realizes na ang laki ng pagkukulang niya as a mom. Which isn’t necessarily her fault since she just happens to be career-oriented.”

“So I think it’s that conflict as a mom kasi ang daling sabihin that men are in charge of working for the family, but what will happen if it’s the mom who’s focused on her career and is left no time for her child? It talks a lot about these issues. It’s so hard to explain in just one theme because there’s so much happening and so many representations.”

Privileged

When asked about the career versus full-time parent dilemma, Garcia acknowledged that she is speaking from a point of privilege since she has the luxury of choice.

“Billy and I are both working so we’re able to manage. What I’m doing right now is a choice. But many people in the world, and especially in our country, don’t have that choice. When push comes to shove, of course survival has to come first because what will I feed [my son] Amari? How will I send him to school? But since I’m privileged enough to have a choice, talagang pipiliin ko siya.”

She also pointed out: “I also know of others who don’t have to work, but it’s a priority for them because they have certain dreams and goals, they’ll chase after it even if they already have enough money. Kakayod pa rin sila for their careers because that’s what they want to achieve. So kanya-kanya lang naman yan.”

Whatever work opportunities have slipped by her the past years, Garcia knows the sacrifice isn’t for the long haul.

“I guess where I’m coming from is, I know that I’m not going to have these years forever. I’m also not going to be young forever. May mawawala naman talaga sa akin by staying at home,” she said. “It’s deciding what matters more, kung anong ayaw mo mawala. As much as I love my career, when I weigh out everything, it’s more important for me to be around Amari in his formative years.”

On whether they’re working on baby number two, Garcia said that while she leaves it up to fate, she also prefers Amari to grow a bit older before they add to the brood.

“It’s a good time but it’s still up to God. I also realized, akala ko kasi when I was pregnant, ah madali lang ito, nine months lang mawawala sa akin, but it’s been two years and I don’t think it’s going to be cut short anytime soon,” she shared.

“Raising a child is not easy. Gusto ko matutukan si Amari, and I feel like if we have another child now, doable naman. But the way na natututukan namin siya ngayon, iba talaga. Although we can muti-task, mas gusto ko yung focused talaga. Kapag nakakausap na namin siya, nakakaintindi na, that’s the ideal time for me na masundan.”

Non-negotiable

“Kaluskos” is only Garcia’s second acting project for the year after March’s action-drama “Adarna Gang”, which streams on Vivamax.

“I don’t purposefully limit the projects I accept. But I think it’s hard for every production to consider na bitbit ko yung anak ko. Pero wala eh, non-negotiable ko talaga siya kasi I’ve never spent one single night away from Amari,” she explained of the gap in her acting stints.

“I never spend a long time away from him which is why I’m so grateful to Viva and Direk Roman for being so understanding. But this is not going to last forever, since hindi naman siya bata forever. Inuuna ko lang talaga siya ngayon.”

When Garcia does emerge from home life every now and then to act for the cameras, don’t expect her to do something similar to “Ex With Benefits” – her 2015 sexy-drama opposite Derek Ramsay that she calls her most daring film to date.

“I wouldn’t say never say never kasi paano kung may dumating na magandang role,” she said of doing risqué roles. “The reason why I’m avoiding it at this point is not because I got married and already have a family, but ayoko lang na magsawa – hindi lang ang mga tao, but also me. Ayoko magsawa na pare-pareho lang ginagawa ko. I feel like there’s no growth in sticking to one stereotype.”

COLEEN GARCIA

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