PEP EXCLUSIVE: Dutch director explains why he chose Sandy Talag to portray child prostitute in Lilet Never Happened

Sandy Talag is the lead star of the Dutch-Filipino film Lilet Never Happened. Helmed by Dutch director Jacco Groen, this film tackles child prostitution in the Philippines. A special screening of this movie will take place on December 2, in time for Human Rights Day.


At 15 years old, Filipina actress Sandy Talag already has an international acting award under her belt.

She received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting at the Oaxaca International Film Festival held in Mexico.


The former StarStruck Kids contestant stood out for her portrayal of a child prostitute in the Dutch-Filipino film Lilet Never Happened.

Helmed by Dutch director Jacco Groen, this drama movie is based on a real-life child prostitute that he met in a hospital.

A special screening of Lilet Never Happened will take place on December 2, in time for Human Rights Day.

In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), director Jacco revealed why he chose Sandy over other girls who auditioned for the challenging role.

“I saw that there was drama behind the eyes,” said Jacco about Sandy.

“I did a documentary about traumatized children and you can see it in their eyes. I was looking for a subject and just by looking at her, I know that this girl has been through something.

“I saw her eyes and I felt like she’s been through some difficulties.”

How would he describe Sandy as an actress?

“She has very, very high motivation. She understands the job of acting and what it is to go under the skin of a character.

“Sandy imagined how it would be like to live on the streets and have to live on your own.

How was it like working with Filipino crew members?

“They are used to working very fast. But quality over quantity. What is important is that what we shot is of international quality.”

The 15-year-old actress also talked to PEP about her joys and struggles in doing the film Lilet Never Happened.

She started working on the movie in 2010 until the movie was finally released in 2012.

This posed several challenges, which the third year high school student now casually makes light of.

“Yung simula [ng movie], eleven po ako. Next sequence… 13 years old ako, next sequence pagbukas ko ng pinto…eleven years old. Pero hindi po siya halata,” she said, flashing her bedimpled smile.

All the patience and hard work paid off when an ecstatic Sandy won her first acting award—and an international one at that.

“Talagang nagtatalon ako at nagsisigaw!” she recalled about that fateful day when she received news that she was chosen as Best Actress in the Oaxaca International Film Fest.

“Iba po talaga ang naramdaman ko ng araw na ‘yon. Grabe po yung tuwa. Nagulat na lang po ako dahil bigla akong umiyak sa sobrang tuwa tapos nanginginig ka. Ang tagal mong hinintay kasi hindi mo akalain dahil dun sa film na ayaw namin, yun pa yung magbibigay sa akin ng award.”

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Sandy admits that she was very hesitant to accept the project Lilet Never Happened because of its mature theme. She agreed to audition for the role but she only performed half-heartedly since she was not completely sold on the idea of portraying an eleven-year-old girl forced into prostitution by her mother.

During the 2013 International Film Festival Manhattan in New York, the film bagged the Mount Hope Project Award: Achievement in Filmmaking and Social Advocacy, as well as Best Director Global Feature, and Best Ensemble Cast Feature.

It was also hailed as Best Youth Film at the 2013 Copenhagen International Film Festival.


In the movie, Dutch actress Johanna Ter Steege is cast as a social worker who tries to help Sandy’s character named Lilet. John Arcilla plays the husband of the social worker.



Here are excerpts of PEP’s interview with Sandy Talag:

Question: What was your reaction when you learned that you won Best Actress?

Sandy Talag:
Hindi pa po namin alam na nanalo na kami sa Copenhagen ng Best Film. Tapos po pagsabi sa amin, ‘You just won for Best Film…’ Grabe po yung reaction ko nun.

Hindi ko po alam na may nagvideo sa amin. Nakakahiya kasi yung mismong nag-interview sa amin, vinediohan niya ako. E, ako po kasi pag tumawa… eksaherada ba ‘yon? So talagang pag super tuwa, anlakas-lakas ng boses ko tapos pinakita dun sa YouTube. Nakakahiya. Grabe naiyak-iyak po ako nun.

Noong September 30 po, tinawagan po ni Tita Eunice [Deasis, producer] si Mama. Monday po yun. Bale papasok ako ng school nun. Paalis na po ako. Nagulat po ako ang aging gumising ni Mama.

Nagpapadyak po dun sa hagdanan. Sabi niya, ‘Nak, bilis si Tita Eunice.’ Pag-angat ko po ng phone, ‘Hello po.’ Yung tono po ni Tita Eunice nag-iba na po. Yung hindi po normal na tono. Tapos biglang sabi nga niya, ‘Congrats!’ Akala ko naman po kino-congrats po ako dahil sa napanalunan dun sa Copenhagen. Sabi ko, ‘Ay thank you po.’ Tapos sabi niya, ‘nanalo ka. Best Actress.’

Ay, talagang nagtatalon ako at nagsisigaw! Iba po talaga ang naramdaman ko ng araw na 'yon. Grabe po yung tuwa. Nagulat na lang po ako dahil bigla akong umiyak sa sobrang tuwa tapos nanginginig ka. Antagal mong hinintay kasi hindi mo akalain dahil dun sa film na ayaw namin, yun pa yung magbibigay sa akin ng award.

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Question: Do you have a dream role that you want to portray?

Sandy: Matagal na po na dream role. Kasi po kung talagang nasubaybayan n’yo yung journey ko sa showbiz, ang talagang madalas ko po na role puro po pulubi. Puro po naiwan ng nanay. Puro po iyak na kinakawawa. As in puro heavy drama po. Wala pa po akong nagagawa na kontrabida ako. Iyon po talaga ang siguro po dream role ko. Saka po yung may powers. Ganun po yung dream role ko. Pero kung mas gusto nila ako sa drama, e, di sige.


Question: Since this is your first foreign film, what differences did you see between a Dutch production and a Filipino production?

Sandy: Mas perfectionist po sila. Kasi po 'pag nagtatrabaho po yung mga Filipino filmmaker…hindi naman sa sinasabi kong hindi sila ganon kaperfectionist…

Kunyari po sa simpleng TV series [sa Pilipinas]… yung hindi ganun ka-outstanding yung pag-arte mo pero hindi na nila gaanong pineperfect. Pero working with other nationality po, mas perfectionist sila. Tapos ang gusto nila talagang ma-move ka ng scene na ‘yon. Pero pag sa movie siyempre kailangan perfect.

Question: Does that mean that you shoot a lot of scenes?

Sandy: Opo. Nakakatuwa po… Siguro ang pinakakonti naming take kahit na perfect na perfect na … take 5. Pinakakonti na po yun. Naalala ko tuloy yung sabi ni Direk [after a take], ‘Okay, perfect! Let’s do it again.’ (laughs)

Araw-araw po yun kaya pagod na pagod din po ang lahat kasi ganito po kakapal yung script … sabihin po natin sa isang araw 20 sequences po ang naka-allot … sampung sequences lang po ang magagawa kasi paulit-ulit.

Question: What are your similarities and differences with your character Lilet?

Sandy: Si Lilet po saka ako palaban po. Yung hindi ko po hahayaan na ma-overcome ako ng mga obstacle. Yung hangga’t meron po akong problema sinusolusyunan ko na agad. Ang difference siguro po namin, marami siyang alam. Ako po konti lang ang alam ko. Yun lang po ang nakikita kong qualities.

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Question: How many days did you shoot for the movie?

Sandy: Ay, hindi po days. Years po. Three years po. Since 2010.

Question: Why did it take so long to finish?

Sandy: Kasi po yung pondo po kulang. Kunwari po after 10 days, balik na po yung director sa country nila. After po ng ilang weeks, balik po siya ulit dito.

Question: How did they fix the continuity of the movie?

Sandy: Nakakatuwa po kasi po sa film nung nagstart po kami yung buhok ko as in super short po, tapos naka-bangs pa po ako nun. Tapos nung bumalik sya, yung bangs ko po nandito na [pointing to her nose].

Every time na nagtetake kami, kunwari po after a year … oh nandito kayo … gupit-gupit. Tapos siyempre po tumatangkad naman po ako noon, tapos po naabutan ko na sila [referring to her co-stars]. Ginamit po nila yung mga blocks. Tumutuntong po sila doon.

Kaya dun po sa film, kunwari po…Yung simula [ng movie], eleven po ako. Next sequence… 13 years old ako, next sequence pagbukas ko ng pinto… eleven years old. Pero hindi po siya halata.

Question: How did you get involved with the movie Lilet Never Happened?

Sandy: Since 2004, sumali na ako sa mga reality competitions, yun yung StarStruck Kids. After three years, yun yung Mahiwagang Baul, yun yung first lead role ko...

Meron po akong lola dun at kilala po siya ni Tita Eunice [Deasis], yung producer po ng film. Tapos naghahanap nga daw po sila ng morena, yung hindi masyadong maputi at magaling kumanta. Tapos po naisip nila, ‘Ah, si Sandy.’

Tapos ipinatawag po nila ako. Isa sa mga staff ng film, family friend po namin. Ang sabi po niya sa amin, ‘Gumagawa kami ng movie, indie…about child prostitution. Siyempre po, 11 years old pa lang po ako at that time so si Mama ang sabi niya, ‘Ayaw ko ang anak ko para diyan, masyado pang bata…eleven lang tapos gagawa ng ganon.’

Ang sabi ng family friend namin, “Ah oo, ayaw ko si Sandy para dito masyado pa ngang bata. Then after a day, bigla po siyang tumawag. Sabi niya, ‘Hinahanap si Sandy. Pwede ba kayong magdrop by?’ Pagpunta po namin dun, nagdrop by lang po kami, sabi niya, ‘huwag mong galingan ha. Wag mo bigay yung 100 percent best mo.’

Sabi ko, ‘Sige po, gagawin ko lang po 50 percent.’ Pero pagdating ko po dun, kinausap na po si Mama, tapos audition. After po ng audition galit na galit na si Mama. Sabi niya, ‘Ayaw ko yung anak ko para diyan, masyado pa siyang bata.’ Binasa po ni Mama yung script, puro daw po mura…

So yung buong week po na iyon na ibinigay sa amin ang script… hindi po sa akin pinabasa yung script. Ang ginawa lang po namin, tinanong kung willing ba ako na gawin ito. Sabi ko, willing ako kasi as an actress hindi forever iisa lang yung role na pwede mong gawin. Kailangan para talagang malaman mo kung versatile ka, na magaling ka, kailangan gawin mo yung iba’t ibang genre, iba’t ibang klase ng acting, kaya ko rin po tinanggap ito.

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Question: Weren’t you afraid?

Sandy: Natakot po! Sobrang takot po lalo na’t hindi naman liberated ang Philippines, e. Ang eleven years old, wala pa pong alam sa sex. Hindi pa rin masyadong nagmumura. Sabihin natin na mayroong iilang eleven years old na marunong na pero hindi po lahat in general. Kaya po natakot ako. Alam n’yo po yung feeling na pupunta ka sa set na may sasabihin kang dialogue na tungkol dito na hindi mo alam yung sinasabi mo, hindi mo alam yung ginagawa mo. Pero ang maganda po dun, kumuha po sila ng psychologist para ipaliwanag sa akin pero hindi sinasabi yung main reason para manatili pa rin po akong innocent.

Question: Anong sinabi sa’yo ng psychologist sa set ng movie?

Sandy: Every time po na may sinasabi ako, hindi po talaga nila sinasabi yung totoong meaning. For example po may sinabi po ako tungkol sa sex, ang sinasabi lang nila sa akin, [ang sex] parang yung naglalaro daw po. Parang ganon po yung term nila: naglalaro.

Sabi ko, ‘Ah, yung parang bahay-bahayan.’ Yun po talaga yung nasa isip ko. ‘Oo, yung mga luto-luto, ganun.’ Sabi ko, okay wala naman palang masama.

Every time po na may scene na mahirap, kinakausap po ako ng psychologist. Sabi niya hindi ko kailangang i-search o alamin kung ano ang mga bagay na ‘yon kasi hindi pa ako prepared. Hindi daw maganda na as eleven-year-old kid na ang dami mo nang alam. So ang iniexplain lang po niya sa akin, ginagawa lang nila yun kasi hindi nila gusto. Ginagawa lang nila yun kasi pinapagawa lang sa kanila, parang ganun.

Question: Did you talk to an actual prostitute?

Sandy: Hindi po.



Sandy Talag, international Best Actress at the age of 15


Question: How would you describe Jacco Groen, the director of the movie?

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Sandy: Hindi matapang. Super bait. As in pag andun po kayo sa set, ang daming tao pero hindi n’yo po mapapansin na si Direk Jacco, siya yung director ng film kasi di ba pag director ka, ikaw yung parang boss na pinapakinggan ng lahat. Siya po hindi po. Siya po yung sumusunod…

Si Direk Jacco napakatalino. I mean, yung title pa lang po na Lilet Never Happened noong una po hindi ko rin magets kung bakit Lilet Never Happened. Di ko po kasi tinatanong.


Question: What does the title of the movie mean?

Sandy: Yung sa Q&A po namin sa Denmark may nagtanong: ‘I am just wondering why Lilet Never Happened is the real title.’

Ang sagot pala talaga dun, meron daw po siyang ininterview [government agency]. Sinabi daw po sa kanya, it never happened daw po yung crisis na nangyari sa prostitutes … na may mga minors na ganon. So kaya Lilet Never Happened kasi po yung Lilet na name yun po ang nagsi-symbolize sa poverty crisis, sa prostitutes…Kaya Lilet Never Happened…parang this crisis never happened.

Question: It’s like saying prostitution never happened in the Philippines?

Sandy: Opo. Ang talino po ni Direk. Nakakatuwa.

Question: How did he direct you on the set?

Sandy: Si Direk po kasi every time na may scene, nag-ii-sketch po siya.

Question: Like a storyboard?

Sandy: Opo, storyboard. Nag-ii-sketch po siya. Lahat po busy. Pero siya nasa isang tabi nagdrawing. Tapos pagkatapos akong make-upan, ipapakita nya po sa amin yung drawing. Akala ko po ipagyayabang niya lang na magaling siya magdrawing.

Pag tinitingnan ko po, eto daw yung gusto niyang mangyari. So dun pala sa drawing na iyon, nandun yung nasa isip niya. Lahat ng gusto niya na gawin ko. Lahat ng nasa isip niya tungkol sa scene, nandoon nakalagay sa drawing.

Kapag meron po akong gagawin na hindi masyadong maganda… for example meron pong isang sequence na naglalakad po ako sa bar pero hindi ko po nakita yung scene, tinakpan po ni mama yung mga mata ko.

During the taping, ang sabi po sa akin, pagbukas ko daw po ng pinto, magreact daw po ako na maraming ipis, may mga ipis daw po sa room. So tinatanong ko, ‘Meaning po, madumi?’ Sabi niya, oo daw. Mabaho daw yung lugar. Pero ang sabi ni Mama, meron daw something dun. So iba yung paliwanag sa akin.

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Question: So what they tell you is different on set?

Sandy: Opo. So kung ipapadescribe n’yo siya kung paano siya magdirect, ang tawag ko sa kanya, fantasy voice. (chuckles)

Question: Was that particular scene shot in an actual bar?

Sandy: Opo. Saka po yung actual scene. Meron po kasing… kung mapapanood n’yo po yung actual film, meron pong scene na naglalakad ako sa bar, hinahanap ko po yung ate ko. Pagbukas ko ng bar, may ipis daw dun.

Question: In one of your scenes, you tell another character, ‘He fucked me. He fucked me hard.’ How difficult was it to do that scene?

Sandy: It was one of the most difficult scenes that I have encountered. Kasi po sabi ni Direk, isa po ‘yon sa mga outstanding na scenes … na dun na lalabas yung tapang ni Lilet. Dun lalabas kung sino talaga si Lilet.

Alam n’yo po iyon na kapag sinasabi ko yung mga words na ganun, parang namumulupot yung dila ko kasi po hindi ko na-imagine na makakaya ko pong sabihin yung ganung klase ng mga words.

Pero siyempre po hindi ko po alam kung anong ibig sabihin non. Sabi po nila sabihin ko lang daw po parang … ang term daw po non parang minumura ko daw po yung girl dun. Yun po ang sinabi nila sa akin.

Napakahirap po lalo na yung nagtataping ka ng masyado ka pang innocent na alam ng lahat ng tao kung anong sinasabi mo. At kapag may sinabi ka po natatawa silang lahat. E, ikaw… yung feeling na nasa isang room kayo lahat tapos ikaw masyado kang inosente na hindi mo alam kung ano yung mga pinaggagawa mo.


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