In the film Ilo Ilo, Singaporean child actor Koh Jia Ler plays the ward who bullies his Filipina nanny acted by Angeli Bayani.
Off-screen, however, Angeli discloses that the 12-year-old actor is very close to her. In fact, she treats Jia Ler as she does her five-year-old son Marek.
The Filipina actress spent a month in the Lion City to shoot this family drama helmed by Singaporean director Anthony Chen.
Angeli's character is inspired by Auntie Terry or Teresita Sajonia, the real-life Pinay nanny who took care of the boy Anthony Chen.
Auntie Terry hails from the village of San Miguel in Iloilo, hence the title of the movie.
The movie features Angeli as a nanny who works for a Singaporean family affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Terry (played by Angeli) befriends the young boy who has become a troublemaker in school.
Angeli had the chance to act opposite Singaporean actor Chen Tianwen and Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann who were cast as the parents of Jiale, the role enacted by Koh Jia Ler.
Ilo Ilo won the prestigious Camera d'Or for best debut feature film at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.
It was also chosen to represent Singapore in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 86th Academy Awards.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) had the chance to interview Angeli during the opening night of the 9th Cinema One Originals Festival held at Trinoma last Sunday, November 10.
Here are excerpts from PEP.ph's interview with Angeli Bayani:
How would you describe your character in Ilo Ilo?
Angeli: "She's a very strong woman. Noong time na yun, I was told, napakahirap na maging OFW. Ang hirap makipagsapalaran ... malaki yung danger."
What did director Anthony Chen tell you about the real-life Auntie Terry?
Angeli: "Lagi niyang sinasabi, she is a very strong character.
"Ayaw niya yung mga typical na nanny na [iniisip] 'kawawa ako.'
"Ayokong makitaan ka ng weakness. Kung meron man, sarili mo lang yun.
"Ang sarap kasi totoong tao ang gagampanan ko.
Ang naging [motivation] ko na lang noon, sana yung mga Overseas Workers natin sa Singapore, sana mapanood nila at sabihin nila, 'Oo, ganyan nga ang buhay namin.'"
Have you met the real-life Terry? What were your observations about her?
Angeli: "May inner strength talaga siya. Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Pasensiya na kayo sa ginawa ko kasi hindi ko pa kayo nakikilala noon.
"Ganito lang siya, 'Tama naman, e.'"
Do you still communicate with your Singaporean co-stars?
Angeli: "Oo, friends kami nung wife [played by Singapore-based actress Yeo Yann Yann]. In the film, totoong buntis siya then tanong siya ng tanong kung anong kakainin.
"Yung bata naman, bilang lalaki ang anak ko, madali na para sa akin para mag-bond sa kanya.
"At nag-bond kami on a level na hindi ate ang tingin niya sa akin at hindi nanay at hindi tita...ang tawag niya sa kanilang lahat, Auntie. Pero sa akin, ang tawag niya, Angeli.
"Napansin nga nila lahat yun, e. [Nagtataka sila], 'Ano bang meron sa dalawang ito?'
"Kung paano ko tratuhin ang anak ko, ganun ko siya tinatrato. Actually, binargas ko siya kasi ayoko mag-spoil."
How was it like working with Singaporeans?
Angeli: "It was an eye-opener. It was a very enlightening and enriching experience coz you get to see how the other side works: kung gaano sila ka-professional, kung gaano sila ka-efficient.
"Parang Hollywood rin ang style nila kasi they follow the 12-hour rule. We finish eight sequences in a day. It's very refreshing, compared sa mga ginagawa natin dito."
What else did you observe about Singaporeans?
Angeli: "Iba rin ang work ethic nila, iba rin ang demands. In a way, iba rin ang requirements.
"There is inevitably a cultural difference. For example, may mga bagay na sa kanila, wala lang pero sa atin, big deal.
"Kumbaga, sa atin, iniisip natin, 'Naku, huwag natin ipagawa sa kanya 'yan or huwag natin i-expect na okay lang.'
"Sa akin rin, may mga bagay na okay sa akin pero sa kanila hindi.
"Film acting is universal but there are certain things that you have to bridge.
"That's one thing that I learned right away."
Could you describe your experience during the Cannes Film Festival?
Angeli: "Oh my God! Cannes is everything they say it is. Napaka-glamorous niya, napaka-overwhelming niya.
"Ang laking pressure especially since dalawa ang pelikula ko."
Aside from starring in Ilo Ilo, Angeli was also part of Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan. This was included in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes.
What were the reactions of Singaporeans to the film Ilo Ilo?
Angeli: "Noong nag-premiere kami sa Singapore, nakakatuwa kasi in-embrace nila ako, sobra.
"They call me Terry, my character in the movie.
"They kept saying, 'We love you, Terry. Singapore loves you.'
"Umiyak talaga ako."
Why did you become emotional?
Angeli: "Kasi dala-dala mo yung pangalan ng bansa natin at dala-dala ko rin ang abilidad natin.
What were the comments of Singaporeans about this film?
Angeli: "It was so real and so truthful kaya sila naka-relate.
"Para sa kanila, balewala na Pinoy ako. Kumbaga, everyday life nila yung pinakita."
How do you feel about competing against fellow Pinoys in the Best Foreign Language Film category?
Angeli: "Oh my God! The fact lang na na-shortlist kami, winners na kami. Yun na yung pinaka-pangarap ng lahat ng tao.
"Bonus na lang. Saka ko na lang iisip, sa January kapag nag-announce na."
(Transit, starring Jasmine Curtis, Marc Justine Alvarez, Ping Medina, and Irma Adlawan, has been submitted as the Philippine entry to the Oscars. Incidentally, the United Kingdom's entry to the Oscars also features Filipino actors. Crime drama Metro Manila, starring John Arcilla, Jake Macapagal and Althea Vega, will represent the U.K. in the Oscars derby. The final list of Oscar nominees will be announced by January 2014 with a presentation show for the 86th Academy Awards scheduled to take place on March 2, 2014.)
Are you considering getting a Hollywood agent?
Angeli: "Meron akong kausap ngayon. Wow! Ikaw talaga ang una kong sinabihan!
"Naloka talaga ako! He is based in L.A. [Los Angeles]."
What kinds of roles are you eyeing?
Angeli: "It depends, e. Ang dami ring Asians ngayon dun so it's a really tough battle and lahat sila magagaling."
Ilo Ilo will be screened in Philippine cinemas this December 2013.