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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 24, 2018

Director Kip Oebanda Of Acclaimed Cinemalaya Topgrosser 'Liway' Confesses He Was Born In Prison To Political Detainees

KIP OEBANDA is one of our promising young filmmakers who’s making waves in the indie film scene today. He made actress Odette Khan win her first acting awards for his second movie, “Bar Boys”. His last one, “Liway”, won the Audience Choice award and was the topgrosser in the recent Cinemalaya Filmfest. “Liway” is a personal film for him. It’s told from the point of view of a boy who grew up inside Camp Delgado, a prison for both rebels and criminals, in Iloilo.

That boy is him and his full name is Dakip. And Liway is his mom, Inday (played by Glaiza de Castro), who was a political prisoner along with his dad, Ric (Dominic Roco.)

“Actually, very pleasant ang kulungan namin even if were sharing it with criminals,” he says. “The criminals are really sympathetic to the rebels. Even the people who run the detention camp, mababait sa amin kasi alam nila may mga bata. It’s really like a normal community, pero siempre, for me, hindi mo nakikita yung labas, so it’s not normal for a child. Hindi ko alam ang hitsura ng cars, buses, buildings. Una kong nakalabas, I was 4 years old, when I was invited to speak in a rally. When I first went to school sa labas, sabi ng teacher: one orange plus one orange is how many? Sabi ko, ano po yung orange? Kasi ni di ko alam how it looks. That’s how it became clear to me na iba yung naging childhood ko. Nasanay ako sa loob kaya makakatulog lang ako nang palayain na kami when my tito would shout: Lights off!”

After they were freed at the end of martial law, his parents eventually broke up. His mom took him and siblings to Manila while his dad went back to the mountains serving the people until he passed three years ago. His mom continues to be an activist serving in a Visayan foundation that helps women and children victimized by human traffickers. He got his bachelor’s degree majoring in economics from San Beda College and got his masters at the AIM for development management.

But after watching hundreds of movies, he became fascinated with film and took up filmmaking at the Asia Pacific Film Institute. That’s where he wrote his first script, “Tumbang Preso”, an advocacy film about human trafficking showing kids enslaved to work in a sardines factory. His second film is “Bar Boys”, an entry in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017 about college friends in law school. His third film is the Cinema One entry, “Nay”, about an aswang, Sylvia Sanchez, who turns his son, Enchong Dee, into an aswang to save him from cancer. “Liway” is his fourth movie.

“I want to tell the real story of martial law victims,” he says. “Lalo na ngayon, there’s an attempt to discredit them as mere nuisance, to make people forget about the evils of martial law and to rewrite our history. The movie says these are the facts, this is what happened. When my parents were arrested, they gave their first son to an aunt of mine para mapalaki ito nang maayos. Me and my two other siblings were born inside the prison. Yung older brother ko, lumaki na hindi ina-acknowledge ang parents namin as magulang niya. This is very true of the children of political prisoners who grew up away from their parents.”

How did he cast the movie? “Si Dominic, nakatrabaho ko na before in ‘Tumbang Preso’ so I know him. Si Glaiza is one of the three choices namin ng producers pero siya talaga ang pinaglaban ko kahit toxic ang schedule niya kasi she’s busy doing a soap and can shoot only at 1 PM. She can balance out the needed combination of strength and vulnerability as Liway. She also sings well and she sings the two songs in the movie, ‘Himig ng Pag-ibig’ and ‘Pagbabalik’. I wish we had a bigger budget para na-expand ko pa sana yung exploits niya sa bundok. Pinakamahirap i-cast, yung bata mismo. One month kaming naga-audition, wala kaming makuha. People say our choice, Kenken Nuyad, malayo ang hitsura kina Glaiza at Dominic. It’s true, pero meron ngang kamukha nila, hindi naman marunong umarte, hindi marunong sumunod sa directions na binibigay mo. Kenken might not be the best looking child actor but I like his grit, na siguro galing sa pagiging breadwinner niya para sa family nila. Magaling talaga siya.”

“Liway” opens in theaters nationwaide on October 3. For his next project, Kip wants to do a mainstream movie. “Nag-pitch na ako sa producers. Sana magustuhan nila.”
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