By Ricky Calderon

            “It was a startling revelation for me to learn about their culture. Hindi nila alam ang edad nila. Hindi nila alam ang birthday nila. Ang pangalan nila first name lang. Siyempre yun lang po ang alam natin sa kanila. At sila naman, yun  panghihingi ng limos lang ang alam nilang gawin. Sana bigyan na lang sila ng trabaho.”

Barbie Forteza, Laut Star
Barbie Forteza, Laut Star

Kapuso actress Barbie Forteza felt fortunate to play the lead role in the movie Laut, a film by Louie Ignacio that tells the story of the Badjaos, the original sea dwellers who were uprooted from their origins and forced to lead a life in the city. The maddening crowd is a place alien for people who were used to have the sea as their companion.

Laut was the opening film of the Singkwento International Film Festival held last Friday (February 19), at the Leandro Locsin Theater of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NNCA) in Intramuros, Manila.

Barbie admitted that her exposure to the lives of the Samal de Laut was an eye-opener.

“Hindi ako aware sa kind of life nila. Nalaman ko lang nang gawin namin ang pelikula. At saka ang babata nila nag-aasawa kasi nga di nila alam ang age nila. So sa menstruation lang nila binabase ang edad. Nagulat ako doon,” said Barbie.

In the movie, she plays the role of Nadia, a young woman and wife, coping with the harsh realities of life but at the same time trying to maintain her dignity, integrity, and humanity amidst adversity. It is an enlightening for the audience as the movie presents how these people see their lives turn upside down after being uprooted.

Laut also presents the rituals, traditions and culture of the Badjaos which they intend to keep even if faced with the rigors of day-to-day living, having to resort to begging or selling stuff just to barely make ends meet.

“Having seen how they live, siguro magbibigay din ako ng limos sa kanila. But really, I hope our government will provide them with jobs kasi it is what they need to survive city life,” added Barbie.

The Laut Team
The Laut Team

Barbie added that it was only during the filming of Laut that she became aware they (Laut) existed.                                                                                                          “What was really surprising is that they marry early since they don’t know. In the movie, my sister had no choice but to get married. My desire was to save up again for her dowry so I can get her back,” she related.

Those who’ve seen the movie had nothing but praises for her acting but Barbie dismissed the idea of her winning an award for her performance.

“I am happy that I was able to do the movie, but I don’t want to think about me winning an award. The fact that I was able to do the movie and it will be competing in an international film festival is already enough reason for me to be happy. It would be a bonus if the film gets recognized overseas when it competes or gets shown in a festival. Or it wins an award. We want more people to see the movie. We want to help create awareness of their plight.”

Anna Capri
Anna Capri
Jak Roberto
Jak Roberto

The movie was shot in location in Pampanga, in the exact place where these displaced Badjaos were residing but Barbie said they didn’t have a hard time dealing with the people.

“Hindi sila mabigat kasama. First time yata ever na may nakita silang artista o first time rin yata na may nagpuntang artista sa lugar nila. Updated sila. Sabi nila napapanood nila ako.  They seem to be happy people. Walang lungkot. Hindi sila nagpapaawa. Tuwang-tuwa sila sa amin. Madali silang kausapin,” Barbie related.

She said her role as Nadia in the movie was too good to pass. “I love doing indie films because the roles are edgy. But I choose my roles carefully since not all roles in indie films may suit you,” said Barbie.

How was she able to portray her role with so much heart?

“It is really a challenge since as Barbie, I didn’t have that kind of an experience that Nadia encountered in the movie. But I guess the challenge lies in the fact na napakanormal ng buong pelikula pero si Nadia, hindi normal ang pinagdadaanan niya. There is really a person named Nadia with whom my role was based but I didn’t get to meet her,” she said.

How do you think the audience abroad will accept the film? “Hindi naman natin sinisiraan ang bansa natin by showing this. Mahal natin ang bansa natin so bakit naman natin sisiraan? Ipinapakita lang natin ang ganitong klaseng buhay na nakikita natin dito. Show more of our reality,” she explained.

 What have you learned about your role? “Bilang isang Laut, ipaglaban mo kung ano ang gusto mo. Kung kailangan ninyo ng lupa, ipaglaban ninyong lahat. Magtulungan kayo. Sa asawa ko, kay Adil, paghihirapan ko na mag-ipon ng dowry para isauli kasi ayoko na sa kanya. Ipaglalaban ko ang sa palagay ko ay dapat kong gawin,” Barbie stated.

 “Ang ganda ng pagtanggap nila sa amin kaya ang sarap gumawa ng movie na dedicated sa kanila. Na hindi nila alam sila yung topic ng movie. Before we started the shoot, I watched movies about Badjao pero ang napanood ko ay yung nasa laot sila talaga.”

Barbie’s career is doing great. But she is not ready to claim that she is the queen of indie in the GMA turf.

“Grabe naman po yon,” she said with a laugh. Basta natutuwa po ako na right after ng Half Sisters ay hindi ako nabakante. May bagong show ako (That’s My Amboy) na malayong-malayo sa istorya ng previous soap ko. Kahit na lagi akong napapanood, refreshing yung bago kong role.”

Having done three indie films, Barbie seemed to want more. In fact, she got good reviews in Mariquina where she got an Urian best supporting nomination. And she’s playing opposite Nora Aunor in the Cinemalaya entry Tuos to be shown in August.

“When I did Mariquina, I really liked ithe experience of doing an indie film. They tackle different stories, really edgy stories. I accept offers to do indie movies kasi I really like the challenge they gave me.  I was personally chosen by Direk Louie to do the lead in Laut. Obviously gusto ko ang ginagawa ko and I want to do more indie films. Kasi dito ko naipapakita sa audience what I can do as an actress. Gusto ko naman makita nila, ma-realize nila (audience) na tina-try ko naman ipakita na may talent ako, na kaya ko naman maging actress,” Barbie averred.

At the 36th Oporto International Film Festival in Portugal, Laut is bound to compete.  It is also nominated in four categories at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in London: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director of a Foreign Language Film (Louie Ignacio), Best Screenplay of a Foreign Language Film (Carlo Encisu Catu) and Best Editing of a Foreign Language Film (Vanessa de Leon).

“Laut” is produced by BG Films with Ms. Baby Go, Dennis C. Evangelista, Romeo Lindain and Ferdinand Dizon Lapuz as its producers. Aside from Barbie, the other cast include Jak Roberto, Anna Capri, Gabbi Garcia, Ronwaldo Martin, Felixia Dizon , Perla Bautista, Erika Yu, Carl Acosta, Rico Barrera, Norman “Boobay” Balbuena, and  Ezekiel Jash, among others.

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