Mrs. Edita Burgos—the mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos—believes Lorna Tolentino was meant to portray her in the family drama Burgos.
“Ako naniniwala na things are meant to be. That’s how it works. Someone may be the second, third, fourth choice. Pero kung sino talaga ang pinadala ng Diyos sa iyo, tugma talaga. And nakita naman talaga natin kung gaano kagaling si Lorna,” Mrs. Burgos told the press during the screening of Burgos at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
(View photos: Lorna Tolentino graces Burgos screening at the CCP)
As the closing film of the 9th edition of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Burgos is Lorna’s first foray into the indie scene. Directed by Joel Lamangan, the film depicts the harrowing true story of a mother’s search for justice following the forced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, who was abducted on April 8, 2007. Jonas was Edita’s son with the late press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr.
Despite being the second choice for the role (after Nora Aunor), the veteran actress accepted the part without a second thought, especially after reading the script.
Lorna enthused: “It was a brilliant script written by Ricky Lee. Kaya nung nalaman ko na ako talaga ang nakuha, ni-review ko lahat ng interviews ni Mrs. Burgos para malaman ko talaga kung paano. At challenge rin kasi talaga ang true-to-life [stories] kasi kailangan kahit papaano makita nila si Mrs. Burgos sa akin.”
Of the actress’s portrayal, Mrs. Burgos described it as “sensitive” and felt almost real at some point.
“We just talked several times to know each other at nakita ko ang values niya, halos parallel kami, e. Pareho kaming biyuda. Yung asawa namin parehong namatay sa cancer. Pareho namin inalagaan ang husband namin. And siya din, ang pag-alaga sa mga anak niya, hands-on. Napaka-sensitive ni Lorna. Nung nakita lang niya ’yung script, a-internalize na niya agad, e. Hindi na niya kailangan ng pointers.”
Edita's husband, Joe Burgos, died of cancer in 2003 while Lorna's husband, Rudy Fernandez, succumbed to cancer in 2008.
DEATH THREATS. The film Burgos clearly touches on the controversies surrounding desaparecidos or forced disappearances in the country.
As defined by the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10350) signed by President Noynoy Aquino III, enforced disappearance is “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared."
Did Lorna receive death threats after accepting the project? “Hindi naman. Mas mataas na naman siguro ang pangunawa natin, ng mga tao sa sining na ito,” she answered.
But it was a different case for Mrs. Burgos. She revealed, “Mas matindi ang threats ngayon [after the release of the film]. Kasi noon nagpapakita sila. Nakikita ko na sinusundan nila ako. Ngayon, hindi na sila nagpapakita, pero alam ko nandiyan sila. Kasi maraming signs na nandiyan sila. Nakikinig sila sa lahat ng telephone conversations namin. Alam nila kung saan ako nandoon.”
Still, Mrs. Burgos remained undeterred. She stated proudly, “Meron akong guardian angels.
“At dalawang bagay lang ang pwede makapag-pahinto sa akin. Una, kung wala na ako. Pangalawa, kapag nakita na namin si Jonas. So in other words, tuloy-tuloy ang laban na ito. Hanggang makita namin si Jonas, hindi kami hihinto.”
INSPIRATIONAL FILM. While the search for Jonas Burgos may still seem a long journey for justice, Mrs. Burgos, however, expressed her gratitude to the people who made this film possible.
(Read: Burgos movie review)
“I feel so humbled. I know I do not deserve this. It’s God’s grace. There’s too much gratefulness in my heart.
She continued, “Malaking-malaki ang maitutulong ng film na ito [sa case] dahil iba ang appeal—Inspirational ang naibibigay ng artista… Napakalaking kontribusyon ng isang pelikula sa paghangad ng kamalayan ng tao. Hindi naman lahat nakakaalam na meron pa hanggang ngayon ang forced disappearances. Kaya sana lahat nang makapanood at malaman na may ganito pa, kung wala silang magawa para makilahok sa paghahanap, sana ipagdasal na lang nila na maliwanagan ang mga nandukot, ’yung mga dapat mag-decide na i-surface na siya.”
This is a plea that Lorna seconded. “Dahil kailangan na malaman ng tao ang journey ni Mrs. Edita Burgos. Kailangan malaman ng tao na marami pa ang kagaya ni Jonas Burgos na naghahangad ng hustisya.”
Rocco Nacino, who brought life to Jonas Burgos, made his own sacrifices for the film. The GMA-7 actor revealed that he insisted on shooting the torture scene for real so it won't look fake onscreen. "Dun sa water torture scene, nakainom nga ako ng tubig pero okay lang," revealed Rocco.
There will be screenings of Burgos on August 26 at the Karapatan office to raise funds for the Free Jonas Burgos Movement.