Aswang, Supernaturalism and Cherie Gil

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NET PHOTO 1 Direk Gabriel Fernandez with Tetchie Agbayani and Cherie Gil for web

DO you believe in witchcraft, in aswang?

In the day and age of the internet, anything about paranormal and the unseen is subject to inquiry, too.

Not until first-time full-length feature director Gabriel Fernandez, the protégé of film masters Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, became conscious of folk tales about Filipino lore on the bizarre, that he tried to see if he could prove that there really was black magic.

Fernandez coming to terms with the supernatural started when he was conceptualizing a film project for De La Salle College of Saint Benilde sometime ago.

“Yes, I believe in aswangs,” Gabriel said without batting an eyelash.

He had experiences in the past about encounters with the wonder world of kaprimanananggaltikbalang and wolves not only in his imagination but in reality as well.

As a mentor on Philippine culture and communications, his readings on folklore added dimension to them.

To carry on his beliefs, Gabby—as he is called by his peers and friends in the entertainment community and academe—wanted to tell stories about all these in visuals, so he developed a story about a rich, landed family in the Visayas, particularly in Negros Province, who was possessed with some strange force.

On top of this, his literary influences must have inspired him to infuse some symbols and metaphors on wanderlust.

***

Fernandez’s maiden film offering, “Mana” is the product of both his experiential and imaginative excursion on the fantasy.

But why a horror film to celebrate the twenty fifth year of St. Benilde?

“Of course, we didn’t want to be predictable. Just because St. Benilde is associated with education, we should have produced a typical educational film like the life story of the school’s namesake or of a saint,” Fernandez enthused.

Rather, the enterprising filmmaker would charter a new path of presenting academic movies.

“I was given a free hand of what material to produce,” volunteered the small but giant in vision and imagination film professor.

I should also say supernaturalism is education and information as well.

“The film isn’t only on aswang per se but it is also a symbol of the contemporary times. That there are many aswangs who are around us, living and all, sucking our blood, our public money,” he chuckled pertaining to the pork barrel scam among our public servants.

Although “Mana” is about supernatural things, Gabby wanted it sold to the audience as a family drama because, first and foremost, it is also about the daily life of a Filipino family.

***

There’s nothing wrong about promoting the film as genre, anyway.

As it is, fantastic films are making waves in world cinema these days.

The market for genre films is getting a wider share of audiences not only worldwide but right here in the heart of Asia.

Thrillers are surefire box-office attractions not only in the Americas but in Europe as well.

In the Asian region, there’s an influx of horror and fantasy films.

At the annual Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Bucheon City, South Korea, hundreds of thrillers from various countries are screened and made money eventually in theatrical exhibition.

In the Philippines alone, local and foreign films shown weekly are the scary types.

I would always remember what critic Nonoy Lauzon had said about the flood of horror films in the market especially in the millennium.

He thoughtfully underscored that the surge of these films had something to do with 9/11 when the world was always at the tip of a terror attack.

Genre films creeps would always make a box-office killing.

***

Supernaturalism, though, has always been around even way back to the fourteenth century when religion was a preoccupation.

Later it was adapted as an art movement, literature being one of its subscribers, and later found its employ in film as well.

One of the most popular literary pieces of the genre translated into the big screen is “The Legend of the Sleepy Hallow.”

In the home front, except for the modern take of the franchise “Shake, Rattle & Roll” on scream movies, “Gabi ng Lagim” is probably the most trailblazing Filipino film of the genre.

***

Meanwhile, Cherie Gil, known for her villainess portrayals, is very excited about her character in “Mana” as the heiress to the heirloom of the family matriarch, convincingly essayed by one of the doyens of Philippine musical theater, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio.

“I love portraying horror films. I have done them before with my mom Rosemarie Gil but being transformed to a dog this time is quite an amazing take.

“Gabby Fernandez did it very creatively. I am proud of the significance of my role,” exclaimed Cherie.

***

Shorts—Folk singer Freddie Aguilar has found his latest love conquest—a sixteen-year old girl too young to be his great granddaughter…Luis Manzano and Jennylyn Mercado have reportedly called it quits but no one is denying nor confirming…Controversial and intriguing Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel had to cancel the post-prod of a music video he directed when Viva Films required all its staff to watch the premiere night of Wenn Deramas’ “Bekikang Ang Nanay kong Beki” with Joey Paras on the title role…Robin Padilla stayed in The Netherlands for nine days to shoot “10,000 Hours,” a biopic of Panfilo Lacson, one of the country’s senators, with Bb. Joyce Bernal at the helm…Yvonne Benavidez, also known as Tita Mega C is celebrating her nth birthday today at home in Ayala Alabang with an acoustic band to provide music to her guests…Flamboyant entertainment reporter Chito P. Alcid’s remains were cremated after almost a week of funeral wake many of his friends and colleagues from the film and television community paid him their last respects like Susan Roces, Lorna Tolentino, Amalia Fuentes, Minda Morena, Carla Varga, Azenith Briones, Maria Isabel Lopez, Deborah Sun, Julie Ann Fortich, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Gloria Sevilla, Liberty Ilagan, Suzette Ranillo, movie writers Alice Vergara, Anthony Solis, Jayjay Espiritu, Arthur Quinto, Rudy de la Pena, Obette Serrano, Mona Patubo and Robert Silverio… Feisty talent manager Annabelle Rama was missed at Chito’s wake…KC Concepcion was an epitome of an inspired host at the 5th Star Awards for Music of the Philippine Movie Press Club and everyone was talking about how the glow in her face was brought about by her romance with National Basketball Association (NBA) star Chandler Parsons…Nora Aunor turned the table around when she served food and drinks to her adoring fans instead of them serving their idol when they organized a get-together in a chicken fast-food house in Cubao…2009 Palm d’Or Best Director Brillante Ma. Mendoza was a again a hit at the recent Hawaii International Film Festival when his movies “Thy Womb” and “Sapi” were shown in the prestigious event…Erik Matti out, Baltasar Kormakur in as director of “On The Job” when it is remade by Hollywood…Young actress Mara Lopez enjoyed her surfing a lot in Pangasinan’s waves…Singers and stage actors Roeder Camanag and Vince Tanada performed to the audience delight at the fund-raising for cancer-stricken award-winning screenwriter’s Frank G. Rivera.

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