Marilou Diaz-Abaya recalls asking Mother Lily Monteverde if she could direct a comedy for Regal Films.

"Ayaw akong bigyan ni Mother Lily [ng comedy project], 'Mother, sige na, gagawin ko 'to [drama], bigyan mo ako ng comedy...'"

And the Regal matriarch reportedly said, "'Ay, hindi ka gawa ng comedy! Masyado kang serious!'"

 

Photo: Noel Orsal

Direk Marilou Diaz-Abaya's bubbly disposition belies her battle with stage 4 cancer.

Sa panayam ng PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), kamakailan,  masiglang ibinahagi ni Direk Marilou ang mga personal na detalye sa buhay niya, at ibang mga saloobin.



Nasa stage 4 na ang karamdaman ni Direk Marilou (cancer of the breast) at sabi rin niya, "I'm already prepared to go."

Will she share her life story, in any form (as a film bio, book, etc.)?



"I think so," mabilis na tugon ng 57-year-old filmmaker.  

"It's not mine.  It's God's.  It's for everybody... I wouldn't be teaching, if I didn't want to share myself."



Sa pagtuturo, na sadyang nakahiligan ni Direk Marilou, "Ine-expose mo yung sarili mo diyan. Imagine, since 1980 [I was already teaching]?"



At kung gagawin nga raw na pelikula ang kanyang buhay, ang gusto niyang maging title nito ay:  "Naku...  [The] Storyteller!" at natawa si Direk Marilou.



WORK AND FAMILY
.  Nang hapong makapanayam ng PEP.ph ang multi-awarded filmmaker, teacher, writer at producer (ayon sa gusto niyang pagkakasunud-sunod na pagtukoy sa kanya) ay maayos ang kanyang pisikal na kundisyon.



Ito ay ang phase na "chemo free," ayon sa terminolohiya ng mga doktor sa mga pasyenteng tulad ni Direk Marilou.



Ibig sabihin, hindi siya sumailalim sa "chemotherapy" treatment, kaya maluwag ang schedule niya for interview at iba pang gawaing ugnay sa kanyang propesyon.



Sa ibang araw, mahirap nang mai-schedule si Direk Marilou, dahil maselan ang kanyang medical treatment.



Kasama lang ni Direk Marilou sa condo unit (along Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City) ang kanyang asawang si Manolo Abaya, kilalang cinematographer.



"He's also in Advertising now," ani Direk.



Wala pa ba silang mga apo (grandchildren) ni Mr. Manolo Abaya?



"Wala pa," nangiti si Direk Marilou.  "Age 30-32 [years old] pa lang sila. Their cousins got married, [at age] 35, 36..."



Sina Marc Abaya, 32, at David Abaya, 30, ang tinutukoy ni Direk Marilou.  Dalawang lalaki ang naging anak nila; parehong nasa showbiz, bilang aktor at cinematographer, respectively.



"If ever, gusto ko nang magka-apo.  E, gustung-gusto ko pa naman yung mga girlfriends nila!



"Naku, 'day!  Sila ang mga kakampi ko.  At sila yung pinagsa-shopping ko.  [Dahil] ano naman ang bibilhin mo du'n sa dalawang lalaki?"



Sa kuwento pa ni Direk Marilou ay napag-alaman ng PEP na kabilang din ang isa niyang "mamanugangin" sa pelikula, bilang production designer.



"Gustung-gusto ko sila, pero [ayaw pa nilang pakasal]... 'What is the matter with you?'" the lady director and mom-in-law-to-be asked her sons's girlfriends.



"Ang gusto nila, pagkakasal, may baby na, which I also agree.



"E, nu'ng time namin ni Manolo, hindi mahirap, e.  

"At that time, kasi, we were on the same set. Tapos, nandiyan na yung babies, yung yaya," sabi rin ni Direk Marilou, na ang tandem with her ace cinematographer-husband ay pinuri sa mga naunang obrang dinirek din ni Marilou, tulad ng  Tanikala (1980) at Brutal (1980), the filmmaker's debut films, among others.



"Sila [Mark and David], hindi pareho ng set, ng mga girlfriends nila. Anyway it will come,  if God wants.



"In 1980," Marilou Abaya recalled, "I had my first baby; and I 'gave birth' to my first two films!" masayang pagbabalik-tanaw pa niya.



MARRIAGE, FRIENDSHIP.  Ayon kay Direk Marilou, diabetic ang kanyang husband.  Pero kaagapay niya ito, sa kanyang karamdaman.



Nag-last ang marriage nina Marilou at Manolo Abaya, tulad din ng mga magulang ni Direk Marilou, na magkasama pang nag-celebrate nuong nakaraang Valentine's Day.



"They're in their 80s na!" she proudly and happily said.



Ano naman ang sikreto ng lasting relationship nila ni Mr. Abaya?



"Friendship," simpleng tugon ni Direk Marilou.  

"Yes.  I was 15 and he was 16 [when we met].  Sa La Salle siya [nag-aaral], ako naman, sa Assumption.



Mahalaga raw ang friendship, "before, during, and after [marriage]," aniya pa.



"When you're our age, kunyari... [dahil] siya diabetic na, at ako, ano na [may cancer]... yung loyalty at understanding, it's there, e.



"Tingnan mo sina Johnny [Delgado] at Laurice [Guillen].  Kasi, nag-umpisa sila, as friends, before, during and after," pagtukoy pa ni Direk Marilou sa showbiz couple na kamatayan din lang ang nagpahiwalay.



DECIDING ON JOSE RIZAL.  Insightful din ang kuwento na nai-share ni Direk Marilou, on how the monumental epic, Jose Rizal (1998), finally landed on her lap.



Malaki ang naging bahagi sa pangyayari ng kanyang pamilya; her husband Manolo and two sons, Marco and David, na noo'y parehong estudyante sa Ateneo high school.



Simulang kuwento ni Direk Marilou: "When Jimmy Duavit [executive of GMA Films] approached me, I was in the middle  of Sa Pusod Ng Dagat [a Jomari Yllana-Chin Chin Gutierez-Elizabeth Oropesa-starrer, also for GMA Films].



"They were having problems daw with the Mike de Leon production [of  an earlier-conceived Jose Rizal filmbio], so [could] I take over daw?



"'No, I don't think so,' sinabi ko muna.  Then, Jimmy Duavit said, 'Don't say no now, just think about it...'  Nandun din si Butch Jimenez [another executive at GMA Films].



"I told him, 'Jimmy, ah, at the top of my head... because you said I [should] think about it, if I consider it, I will have to request two things.'



"Sabi ko, 'Start [writing] the script, from scratch.' Kasi naka-14 drafts na raw si Mike de Leon, which pinabasa sa akin, e, it's for Mike de Leon. [It's] not the type na ako ang gagawa; magkaiba naman talaga kami ni Mike.



"Sabi ko, 'Can I start the script from scratch?  With Ricky Lee and a team of writers?'



"And the second [request]—'Cesar Montano, as Jose Rizal!'

"Sabi ko, 'Actually, Jimmy, it's an advantage and a disadvantage.



"'I've always been a fan and a scholar of Jose Rizal, from the very beginning, and I love reading him [Rizal] from the original Spanish, which I speak and write.



"'So I have a firm image of how Cesar Montano can be transformed into Pepe!'" diin pa ni Direk Marilou.



"There is no way—no matter how good an actor he is—[that] I can make people believe, people who know who Jose Rizal was, na [Aga Muhlach] is Jose Rizal!  

"'No offense meant at all, and no reflection at all, on Aga Muhlach,'" ang sabi ni Direk Marilou.



Si Aga ang unang kinuha ng GMA Films na gumanap kay Rizal at nakapag-shoot na ito, under Mike de Leon.  



"'I think, he [Aga] is a beautiful person, a good actor, but the assignment you are giving me is not for Aga.  It's for the country!' sabi kong gano'n.



"And this is the first time that I'm asked to do a film that's 'for the country!'  It's not my film!  It's not going to be my film! et cetera, et cetera...



"So, after one week, kinonsulta ko si Manolo.  

"Sabi niya, 'You go for it, duwag!' Ginano'n ako ni Manolo," natawa si Direk Marilou.



MARCO AND DAVID.  ''Tapos, one day, Marco and David came home, from Ateneo [both in high school then], nagme-merienda kami.



"Tanong ni Marco, 'Ma, what's this I hear, it's all over school, [that] you're directing Jose Rizal [film bio]?'"



Nag-hesitate sumagot si Direk Marilou sa tanong ng anak, nasabi lang niya, "'Ah, no, no, no, no.  They [just] asked me to direct Jose Rizal.'"



Pagkarinig, ibinaba raw ni Marco ang tinidor niya at tahasang sabi sa mommy niya, "You mean, you might turn it down?  You mean, you might turn down Jose Rizal, who went to Ateneo?



"What face am I gonna show, in school?" mariing sabi raw ni Marc kay Direk Marilou.



"Mangiyak-ngiyak na ako [noon]," balik-tanaw ng direktor.  



"Tumayo ako, [pumunta sa telepono], 'Hello, Jimmy [Duavit], you have to thank Marco Abaya.  I'm taking the project!'"



"Tapos, nu'ng ibinaba ko na yung phone, sabi nu'ng maliit [David, Marco's brother], 'This is it!  I am so relieved!'



"Ibig sabihin, hindi na siya magpapaliwanag sa mga kaklase niya.

"How could I not do it, I'm a Heswita [Jesuit], Atenista ako..." ang sabi ni Marilou, quoting her son.



"Sabi ko, 'Well, we'll try our best.  But this means two years of my life, for sure...'"



From all indications, hindi nagkamali sa kanyang desisyon si Direk Marilou, the brilliant filmmaker that she is.



Naging malaking tagumpay sa takilya at nanalo ng kabi-kabilang award ang Jose Rizal sa panahon ng pagtatanghal nito at nang sumunod na taon.



Iyon ang ika-20 taon ni Marilou Diaz-Abaya, bilang film director, at naging significant ang mga parangal na natamo niya noong 1999 at ng sinundan ding mga taon, matapos niyang magbalik-aktibo sa pagdidirek.


SIC O'CLOCK NEWS.
  Nagbalik-tanaw din ang direktor nuong panahon ng bagong pamamahala, matapos ang 1986 Edsa Revolution. Nagmarka sa publikong manonood ang gag show na dinirek niya para sa IBC-13.



Ito ay yung Sic O'Clock News, isang news-satire program hinggil sa umiiral na sistemang pulitikal sa bansa nuong panahong yun.



Si Jaime Fabregas, veteran actor-comedian, ang main host-character ng TV show.



Naging abala rin si Marilou, bilang direktor ng Public Forum (dating Truth Forum, hosted by columnist-host, Randy David), matapos ang pansamantala niyang paghinto sa paggawa ng mga pelikula.



Pumayag siyang idirek ang dalawang TV programs dahil, "in those five years, I was receiving practically all the offers na talagang very bold!," aniya.



"Hindi naman ako for morality or what lang.  It's just that I found it boring.



"How many ways can you block 'sex' [scenes]?" tanong daw niya sa sarili.  



"At the same time, ang option ko was... exciting yung news and public affairs for me!



"Ayaw akong bigyan ni Mother Lily [ng comedy project], 'Mother, sige na, gagawin ko 'to [drama], bigyan mo ako ng comedy...'"



Na sasagutin naman daw siya ng Regal matriarch, "'Ay, hindi ka gawa ng comedy!  Masyado kang serious!'



"Ayaw niya akong bigyan ng comedy [sa pelikula], finally, meron akong... hindi naman siya basta comedy, but satire.  Satire siya."



Bakit gustong gumawa ng comedy ni Direk Marilou nang mga panahong 'yon?



"E, kasi mas marami akong masasabi," katwiran niya.



SIC O'CLOCK NOW!  "Ngayon nga, sabi nila, 'Why don't you do it [mag-direk ng TV show, ala-Sic O'Clock News] now?'" pagtukoy ni Direk Marilou, o nu'ng mas kaya pa niya, physically.



Her reply:  "Why would I do it?  They're already doing it all over the place!



"Manood ka lang ng impeachment trial [of Chief Justice Renato Corona], Sic O'Clock News na 'yon!  



"Sabi ko, 'Ano 'yon?  Magre-repeat na lang ako?  Manood ka lang ng TV,  spoof na sila!  Ini-spoof na nila yung buhay natin!



"Hellow!" kuwelang sabi pa ni Direk Marilou.