In the 2012 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, LJ Reyes stars with JM de Guzman and Joross Gamboa in the social realist drama, Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino. The film, directed by Lemuel Lorca, depicts the stark poverty in Kalye Marino, Cavite City.
The plot centers on the filth of environment and the everyday survival of its residents.
Lead actor JM plays the role of Intoy, the mussel farmer or “magtatahong,” while LJ portrays the role of Doray, the prostitute.
It is the actress's second time to participate in Cinemalaya. In 2010, LJ bagged the Best Supporting Actress award for The Leaving.
In Intoy Syokoy, Doray feels no guilt or remorse in selling her body so long as she can tend to the needs of her two younger siblings.
The role is LJ’s most challenging as it required her to shoot amid the squalor of Kalye Marino and to internalize the plight of Doray.
Did LJ have a “peg” for her character Doray?
“Ang hirap niya lagyan ng peg dahil nagulat ako na ang bayaran dito, isda lang. Hindi siya binabayaran ng pera. Poor area sila, e. Yun yung condition nung place.
“So anong puwedeng bayaran? Kahit yung mga mangingisda, isang kahig, isang tuka. So, ang binibigay sa kanya, isda. Yun yung payment sa kanya.
“Tapos ang ginagawa niya, kukuha siya ng para sa kanila, kakainin nila and the rest, binebenta niya.”
This is the first time the 24-year-old actress is playing the role of a prostitute. LJ admits she initially had reservations about what the script required of her.
“I was very nervous and scared at first. Pag binasa mo yung script, oh my God, merong love scenes, dalawang beses sa customer!
“Siyempre, pag customer, hindi artista yun! Hindi ko sila kilala dahil siyempre pag ganung mga sensitive na eksena, mas madali kung kilala mo talaga yung ka-eksena mo. Kaso hindi, e!”
Prior to shooting Intoy Syokoy, LJ attended a workshop with veteran actor Ping Medina.
“Sabi ko [sa kanya,] ‘Puwede pong kayo na lang yung customer ko na isa?’
“Kasi siya, alam ko, safe ako. Kasi pag hindi mo kilala, andun yung anxiety… nakakatakot kasi babae ako. Pero, inalagaan ako ng production.”
It was Ping who helped LJ study for her character.
THE PROSTITUTE ROLE. How far did LJ go in portraying her role?
“There was this scene when I had to take off my top. Tapos, dalawa yung scene na meron akong customer. Meron sa puno, meron sa batuhan.”
LJ points out that viewers will get to see her character's transformation from the shy girl who "sells" herself for the first time to the “cold-hearted” woman who feels no guilt using her body.
She feels the role came at just right time in her life.
“Thankful ako dahil feeling ko, at [the] age of 24, medyo marami na rin akong na-experience sa life.
“Feeling ko, kung hindi ito dumating ngayon, at this time, kung dumating itong role na ito at [a different] stage in my life, baka iba. Iba yung atake…
“Pero thankful ako na right timing na dumating sa akin.”
FOR ART'S SAKE. LJ was determined to follow the script and portray her role with as much authenticity as possible.
“Sa isang eksena kasi, kailangan talagang tanggalin ko yung top ko kasi hindi mafu-fulfill yung script kung hindi ko siya tatanggalin.”
Direk Lem assured her that they could make adjustments should she feel uncomfortable.
“Sabi ko, ‘Direk, sige nga, paano mo gagawan ng paraan yun?
“'Hindi. Okay lang ako.’ Okay lang naman na gawin ko basta bawas yung tao. Yung kailangan lang talaga yung nandoon. Ang sa akin naman kasi, kailangan talaga sa script, e.
“Takot din naman ako. Pero siyempre, ano bang pipiliin ko? Mag-inarte ako at hindi maganda ang kalabasan ng pelikula? Or ibigay ko na lang yung hinihingi tapos maging worth it naman in the end?”
At the end of Intoy Syokoy’s seven-day-shooting, LJ felt happy with the result of her efforts. Now she wants portray more challenging roles.
“Ang dami ko pang gustong ma-portray na character. Ang dami-dami pa. Gusto ko yung macha-challenge talaga ako, emotionally, physically, mentally.”