Actress, singer, model, and producer Bessie Badilla once again celebrated the triumph of her full-length dramatic film entry “Hiblang Abo” written by Rene Villanueva at Manila’s Cinemalaya Film Festival 2016. “Hiblang Abo”, co-written and directed by Ralston Jover, tells the poignant story of the life and struggles of four men abandoned by their families and are confined in a hospice facility where they painfully experience deterioration of their mind and body.
Film enthusiasts, critics and fans flocked to the Cultural Centre of the Philippines to see the outstanding “Hiblang Abo” as the jury gave the four veteran actors a special ensemble award. The dream cast are Leo Rialp (Blas) who plays an authoritarian union leader while Nanding Josef (Pedro) is a manic-depressive, Jun Urbano (Teroy) plays a traumatized worker and Lou Veloso (Jose) is a writer and a closet gay.
The gorgeous and talented Bessie Badilla is no stranger to the Cinemalaya Film Festival. Her former independent film productions “Bakal Boys” and “Da Dog Show” also received rave reviews and recognitions. Her video documentary “Dance Of My Life”, based on the true story of her humble beginnings to becoming a most celebrated international model as well as becoming the first Filipina Carnival Queen in Brazil, became a huge box office favourite in New York and the Philippines.
Here’s our up close and personal interview with Bessie Badilla:
What makes HIBLANG ABO special and different from your other projects?
Bessie: HIBLANG ABO (STRANDS OF GRAY) is different from my other film productions because it is an original play by the late Rene O. Villanueva. My first 2 film productions, BAKAL BOYS and DA DOG SHOW were based on documentaries by Howie Severino.
HIBLANG ABO, with the exception of an associate producer in Ms. Harlene Bautista, is my first solo production (without co-producers) and with a grant from Cinemalaya.
How did it feel to work with a powerhouse of veteran actors like Lou Veloso, Leo Rialp, Jun Urbano and Nanding Josef?
Bessie: It was a joy to have these four great actors in one film. It was a gift to watch them portray their characters with aplomb while supporting each other and not outdoing one another. They were so professional in every way.
The jury gave all four actors a special ensemble award. Is this the first time it happened in the Cinemalaya? What’s the reaction?
An Ensemble Award is quite rare, I believe it is only the second time Cinemalaya has given this special award. There was a buzz Hiblang Abo was receiving an Ensemble Award for all four veteran actors from the beginning. Writers who attended our press conference wrote about the possibility even before the film had its world premier. To have a powerhouse cast is rare, so it is close to impossible to have all actors receive the same award. In the case of Lou Veloso, Leo Rialp, Jun Urbano and Nanding Josef, we couldn’t go wrong. It was a dream cast and our actors delivered.
You have continuously supported a lot of projects in the Philippines and never really left your roots, what inspires you as a filmmaker?
Bessie: My late husband, Bambi del Castillo wanted to “give back” to our country by means of supporting arts and culture. We talked about giving back when I turned 50, that was 8 years ago. When he passed away, I found myself watching all kinds of film from classic to Indie. Film watching helped me conquer my sadness after I lost my husband. I decided to get involved in the film industry, after all, I know from first hand experience that watching a good film can take the viewer to another place as I know from first hand experience that watching a good film can take the viewer to another place at least for an hour or so. It can help make people forget their sorrow, their problems, their loneliness and this is where I get my inspiration. Filipinos are great story-tellers and we do have so many interesting stories to share. I will always be inspired to “tell” these great stories through film.
You look more and more fabulous through the years. Can you please share your secret?
Bessie: I do take good care of myself. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I try to sleep at least 7-8 hours everyday. I watch what I eat and I exercise whenever I can. My chosen form of exercise is POLE Dancing. It is a difficult sport to learn but it is also fun and fulfilling. It’s a competitive fitness training where you compete with your own ability.
I also follow what my late mother taught me, to THINK, SAY and DO ONLY GOOD THINGS. After all, the most alluring type of beauty is one that comes from within.
You never fail to impress us. What’s next?
Bessie: I’m not really sure what’s next. I just enjoy whatever comes in my life and I’m always passionate with whatever I’m doing.