"Mrs. Recto was supposedly my practice film before Ploning," this was revealed by director Dante Nico Garcia before actual shooting began for the film last month.
Ploning, starring Judy Ann Santos, became his first film that was released in 2008. Shot in Cuyo, Palawan, Ploning became the Philippine entry to the entry to the 2009 Oscar Awards best foreign language film category but it did not make it to the finals.
Dante recalled how Mrs. Recto came about. It was during a chat with comedienne Eugene Domingo that the concept of the film was formed.
"Noong na-plano ko na gagawa ako ng pelikula, kinausap ko si Eugene Domingo. Sabi ko sa kanya, mag-di-direct na ako. Gusto ko ng ganito-ganito. Nag-brainstorm kami. Para sa isang pelikula, ito ang lumabas. Supposedly, this was very small film and very, very simple. So, technically, this is a story by Dante Nico Garcia and Eugene Domingo."
The movie was then supposed to have Eugene Domingo in the starring role but eventually, the lead role went to Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez.
"Noong pinag-uusapan namin ni Uge [Eugene’s nickname], it was too early in her career to do a serious film. Habang ginagawa namin yung kwento, sobrang swak din kay Regine yung role. Nag-iisip na ko noon of asking Regine to do it.
"Medyo malayo pa nabato ng idea. Because back then, Regine and I weren’t friends yet. Until Ploning became the official entry noon [to the Oscars], noong tumutulong sila, doon lang din kami naging magkaibigan. But before that, I was just thinking of getting her. I just did not know how to get to her. Kaya medyo na-delay yung film. Naghintay lang din ito ng tamang panahon para mahinog ang kwento," Direk Dante said.
AN OFFBEAT CAST. Direk Ga [as friends call him] wanted actors to portray offbeat roles in this movie.
"Noong nag-ca-casting ako, I decided that since it’s an offbeat Regine, parang lahat na lang sana offbeat."
According to Direk Ga, he wanted to tap Coney Reyes originally for Ploning but she begged off because of conflict of schedule. This time however, he feels lucky that the veteran actress agreed to be part of the film Mrs. Recto.
"She’s too young to be my mom, pero parang siya yung nanay ko sa industriya," Direk Dante said of the actress. "I had not other actress in mind. I think kina-usap ko si Tita Connie like three years ago pa."
Indie favorite Pen Medina is also onboard this movie.
He narrated how the actor accepted the role, "I think I talked to him mga mid-2008 pa about the film. Sabi niya, ’hindi.’ Pinagpipilitan niya na last part of 2006 ko pa siya kinausap. Kasi ang basis niya is doon pa siya sa isang bahay niya nakatira.
"And then noong binalikan ko, there was one night na pumasok yung kwento ko sa utak ko. Nabuo na siya. In the middle of the night, I called Pen and asked to meet him up sa isang pang-gabing restaurant sa Ortigas. Tapos, kwinento ko sa kanya yung pelikula. At umiyak siya habang kwine-kwento ko."
Also in the cast are Elmo Magalona, Jayson Gainza and Christian Bautista, who is doing his first indie film.
THE CHALLENGE OF DOING MRS RECTO. For Direk Ga, Mrs Recto presents various challenges as a filmmaker.
"Sobrang simpleng pelikula ito na magdamag lang nangyayari ang kwento. Lahat ng tao nagmamahal. Ang challenge sa akin is how to sustain yung focus sa tao at kung paano yung tao ma-maintain ang attention nila sa pelikula. Sa isang pelikula na walang mamamatay-tao, walang masama. Walang ganoon. Isa siyang very, very sweet na pelikula. It’s very small and simple story.
Another challenge for him is to make the streets of Manila look glamorous on screen.
"Pina-travel muna ako ni Lord. I’ve been to New York. I’ve been to Venice. Yung hitsura ng mga lugar na iyo kapag nakita ko sa personal, hindi naman ganoon kaganda kapag nakita mo sa poster. If they are able to make New York look romantic, or Venice na it looks like a postcard-pretty place..."
"When Ploning was made, madali lang pagandahin yung lugar. Konti na lang yung kailangan gawin. Pero how do I present a romantic Manila, and Recto at that na puro lumang buildings? How do I make this a place that you want to go to? Yun yung mahirap doon."
Direk Ga emphasized, "The place is also a character in the film that they have to fall in love with. Ang pelikula is mangyayari ng magdamag. Yung buong kwento happens within a one-kilometer radius. Gusto ko ma-feel nila kung gaano lang kaliit ang lugar. Yung Recto kasi mahirap mahalin. I want my actors to fall in love with the place."
Direk Ga cites that this movie is something about his teen life when he lived in the area during his high school years when he was studying at San Sebastian. It was in 1986 when he began studying here in Manila.
"I fell in love with Recto. This was Manila for me. Yung buhay ko mula bata ako hanggang grade 6, kwinento ko sa Ploning. Heto naman, continuation ng buhay ko na nasa Recto na ako."
He wants the film to change people’s views about the area.
He recalls, "The way Manila was portrayed in films back then was bad. Ang portrayal kasi was nandito yung masasamang tao. Recto was more of a news item rather than a place to got to. Pero gustong-gusto ko dati yung sumisingit sa mga tao. It was never a burden for me then. Recto made me a better man being here."
He ends with a statement, "It’s a beautiful contrast of my two lives, beautiful in my perspective. At yun yung gusto ko mag-reflect dito sa pelikula."