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CCP Cine Icons revisits Bagong Buwan with Ricky Lee and Marilou Diaz-Abaya

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Films have long mirrored society. As a powerful method of storytelling, films illustrate the countless and timeless facets of human nature, made all the more vibrant with images and sound. The art of filmmaking transcends generations and continues to give life to different narratives, identities, and events.

Bagong Buwan is a testament to timeless filmmaking. Directed by National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Marilou Diaz-Abaya and written by National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricky Lee and Jun Lana, the digitally-restored version of the 2001 drama film premiered on the big screen once again during the fifth edition of the CCP Cine Icons last October 06. 

Starring Cesar Montano, Caridad Sanchez, Amy Austria, Jiro Manio, and Noni Buencamino, Marilou’s Bagong Buwan is considered a cinematic masterpiece for its depiction of Filipino Muslim suffering during the war between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

CCP Cine Icons: Bagong Buwan holds a talkback after the film screening at GSIS Theater.

“It really was a culture of violence,” shares Bagong Buwan producer Margie Moran-Floirendo during the talkback. “On our trip to Camp Abubakar, we arrived at a checkpoint where there was a little boy. He went in front of our vehicle holding a carved toy Armalite, pretending to shoot us.”

However, Margie, who is one of the founders of the Mindanao Commission on Women, believed that Muslims and Christians can be civil. She spearheaded the building of 1,000 houses in Central Mindanao where both cultural groups could live together in peace and harmony.

In attendance at the talkback was National Artist Ricky Lee who wrote Bagong Buwan. His first time rewatching the film after 22 years, he was moved to tears seeing how Filipinos navigated the war casualties. 

“Eye opener ang pelikula na ito sa akin. Growing up, ang tingin ko sa mga Moro ay violent. Kaya gusto namin ipakita sa tao na mga nanay din ito, mga tatay, kuya, anak. Hindi ito mga figures o bayolenteng tao, tao lang din sila.” (To me, this film is an eye-opener. Growing up, I have perceived the Moro people as violent. I want to show people that they are just like us—they are also mothers, fathers, brothers, and children. They are not figures nor violent people, they are also human.)

National Artist Ricky Lee (center) with CCP vice chair Margie Moran-Floirendo and Christian Vallez reminisce about the making of Bagong Buwan and working with National Artist Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

With the objective to make Bagong Buwan mainstream so people can know the story, Ricky also shared how the film was more than just a box-office hit. While it garnered 13 FAMAS awards and nominations, Bagong Buwan was also highly regarded by the Muslim community, much to the delight of Marilou.

“After one premiere, nilapitan si Marilou ng isang batang Muslim at nag-high five sila (a young Muslim kid approached Marilou and gave her a high-five),” he added.

Marilou studied Islam for two years before starting Bagong Buwan. Labeled as “receptive sa hamon” by Ricky, the filmmaker was remembered for her dedication to remaining true to the story and the craft. 

“Si Marilou ay para sa kapayapaan sa sarili,” (Marilou is an advocate for being at peace with herself,) said Christian Vallez, mentee of the late filmmaker. He recalls having frequent discussions on film, haiku, calligraphy, and Zen with her. “Para makabahagi ng kapayaan sa iba, dapat meron ka mismo sa sarili mo.” (In order to be an advocate of peace, you must also be at peace with yourself.)

Actor Jiro Manio

Jiro Manio, who was only seven years old at the time of filming Bagong Buwan, also shared his experiences working with Diaz-Abaya: “Naging nanay ko talaga si Direk Marilou sa shooting namin. She was patient with me lalo na sa mga eksena na mabibigat, kasi natatakot ako during shooting.” (Marilou was like a mother to me. She was patient with me during the heavier scenes, because I was scared during the shooting.)

“Bagong Buwan is the culmination of women working for peace,” said Margie, who brought Marilou to Mindanao. “Marilou is very passionate and she has excellent knowledge of the cause of the war. That was why she wanted to push through with this project – she wanted to pursue the truth.” 

Having worked with Marilou for years, Ricky recalls planning to do double memoirs with the late filmmaker, weeks before her death. Through their recorded conversations, he emphasized how Diaz-Abaya would read his script as Ricky and not as Marilou: “Hindi niya iniimpose ‘yung sarili niya. (She never imposes herself.) She doesn’t exclude my ideas, even during disagreements.”

Cine Icons will be premiering Karnal, another film directed by Marilou and written by Ricky, on November 24, also at the GSIS Theatre. 

The CCP Cine Icons is a special program of the CCP Film, Broadcast, and New Media Division that honors the country’s newly minted National Artists. For its fifth edition, it paid tribute to one of the movers in the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, who was recently re-interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on October 08.

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