By Ronald Constantino
DIRECTOR AND ACTOR – Cesar Montano recently made news for spearheading Cine Turismo, honoring eight films which showcased the beauty of the Philippines. The laudable project was in his capacity as chief of operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board. Well done, Cesar.
Now, Highspeed focuses on Cesar’s fine record as an actor, in particular his artistic collaboration with the late director Marilou Diaz Abaya. The collaboration came up with three films, the memorable “Muro Ami” and “Bagong Buwan” and the classic ‘Jose Rizal.”
This is not to say that Cesar didn’t make good films with other directors. He did. Think “The Great Raid,” a Hollywood production. Or “Waway,” “Mananabas,” “Utol,” “Asero.” Or “Panaghoy sa Suba” (hope got the title right), which Cesar himself wrote, produced, and directed. It’s his tribute of sorts to his home province, Bohol.
TOUGH ROLES – Marilou (a future National Artist?) handpicked Cesar for the three earlier mentioned films, knowing the roles are tough – physically and emotionally.
For “Muro Ami,” Cesar had to stay underwater for a long time as the plot was about young divers. He played the ship leader, stern and even ruthless, engaged in illegal big-time fishing. Cesar had his hair shaved, giving him an even more menacing look.
In “Bagong Buwan,” Cesar played a doctor caught in the Mindanao conflict – Christians against Muslims. Shooting in the forest was no picnic, made even tougher by at times actual encounters between soldiers and rebels. Essaying a Muslim doctor, Cesar had to move and speak like one.
But the most challenging was “Jose Rizal.” Cesar prepared for the part for months – under the guidance of direk Marilou, with the help of historians. Cesar had to speak Spanish, as the National Hero did fluently. That Marilou spoke Spanish was of great help.
WHAT’S NEXT? – Should Cesar Montano have the time, why not do the filmbio of the great Boholano, Dagohoy? In 1953, Mario Montenegro played the part.
Too bad that Marilou Diaz-Abaya is no longer around to direct Cesar in Dagohoy. But then Cesar could always direct it.
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