General Admission

‘Ang Larawan’ a Filipino masterpiece

By Al S. Mendoza 


I am overjoyed by the critical success of “Ang Larawan.”

Starting slow, it rebounded big—its mighty comeback almost unprecedented in the local movie world.

If it were a basketball championship, “Ang Larawan” scored a smashing victory, unleashing its deadliest finishing kick in the so-called last two minutes.

To those not in the know, “Ang Larawan” was one of the eight films shown in the 2017 MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival).

A yearly undertaking by the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority), the MMFF aims to showcase advances in filmmaking and highlight the works of both new blood and old hands in the industry.

To begin with, “Ang Larawan” was written in English by an old hand—the National Artist Nick Joaquin.

I am honored to say that I had rubbed elbows with Nick.

Am I that old?

But I was the babe in the group then that included Nick J, acclaimed painter Danny Dalena, poet-journalists Recah Trinidad and Pete Lacaba, novelist Erwin Castillo, publicist Pepito Aguila, sculptor Julie Lluch and fictionist-journalist Sol F. Juvida.

Together with Nick J, our group would frequent the Calle Cinco bar-cum-restaurant at Mabini St. in Manila to listen to loud live mostly rock music, beer bottle in hand till almost the break of dawn—from the 70’s to the 80’s.

Ah, those were the days.

Our gang first watched Nick’s “Ang Larawan” at the Fort Santiago in Intramuros in the late 70’s.

Starring the immortal Lolita Rodriguez, “Ang Larawan” was the Tagalog stage version then of Nick Joaquin’s deathless full-length play in English, “Portrait of the Filipino as An Artist.”

Turned into a silver screen musical, with libretto by the late Rolando Tinio, “Ang Larawan” bagged the “Best Picture” trophy in the last MMFF.

And to think that it almost did not make it to the festival proper due to some idiotic assertions of the film’s alleged unworthiness by some nincompoops straying into the MMDA hierarchy.

They were rebuked when “Ang Larawan” earned raves in the Tokyo International Film Festival last year.

I was in Tokyo then but, unfortunately, I got sick upon arrival and missed the Tokyo filmfest, sulking in my hotel room for a week as I also muffed watching the Tokyo Motor Show.

Well, it happens.

Anyways, “Ang Larawan” earned praise in Tokyo, notably from the world-famed Variety Magazine, which said that “Loy Arcenas’ universally accessible tale about art, money, family conflict, national identity and female emancipation isn’t just for film enthusiasts but for culture vultures as well.”

Tell you what.  I am deeply honored to know that “Ang Larawan” director Loy Arcenas is the first cousin of Raymond T. Rodriguez, who succeeded Danny “Sir John” Isla as the Lexus Manila president only last year.

Like Sir John, Raymond has been a dear friend of mine for the longest time.  Such nice fella.

And, if I may add, Raymond also happens to be a cousin of our Health Secretary Pingkoy Duque.

To complete the all-star cast for “Ang Larawan” lore, Ryan Cayabyab, the film’s winning musical scorer, is from San Carlos City.

“Ang Larawan” may not have grossed millions of moolah in the MMFF, but the triumph it scored in the hearts and minds of movie buffs was more than enough reward—and award—for the genius of Loy Arcenas.

Raymond T. Rodriguez has promised to introduce Loy Arcenas to me and, surely, I look forward to that day. Eagerly.

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