Edita Burgos’ search is every mother’s search

It’s hard to tell who is Lorna Tolentino (left) and who is the real Edita Burgos, isn’t it?

It’s hard to tell who is Lorna Tolentino (left) and who is the real Edita Burgos, isn’t it?

FUNFARE By Ricky Lo | The Philippine Star

Really now, one doesn’t have to be a mother to be moved by Burgos, the film directed by Joel Lamangan from Ricky Lee’s screenplay that chronicles the long, lonely, unyielding and unflinching (even if it has seemed to be futile) search of a mother for her son who disappeared more than five years ago, his whereabouts unknown up to now.

You only have to be a son or a daughter to feel for and sympathize with Edita Burgos whose search for her missing son Jonas could be that of any mother, yours or mine, maybe under different circumstances because a mother, any mother, will continue to make sense of and find meaning in the loss of a child whether in the hands of evil men or by God’s will.

During the preview last week of Burgos at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (what an apt venue!), I happened to sit beside Bulletin’s Cris Belen, a mother/grandmother, who would whisper to me, “Nakakaiyak!”, as the story of Edita’s search for Jonas unfolded on the screen, a headline-making story all too familiar to us, to the whole world, and yet it doesn’t cease to prick the heart in the retelling.

Lorna Tolentino is cast as Edita Burgos but honestly, I didn’t see her on the screen. What I saw was Edita Burgos, who will always be Nini to me and our Seven Dwarfs group (whose seven journalist-members were, still are, close friends of Nini’s now-US-based sister Malu Tronqued-Mapa), because I know Nini all too well way back when she was a simple wife to the late fearless Malaya publisher and award-winning journalist Joe Burgos. I blinked and when I looked again, the sweet-shy Nini had metamorphosed into a fighting lady delivering fiery speeches in protest-rallies organized by families ofdesaparecidos, holding back tears while being interviewed on TV but never wavering in her determination to find her son.

Since Lorna is a good actress (a grand-slam winner at that!), I wasn’t surprised by the way she immersed herself in the role, fleshing out every inch of Edita Burgos with stunning realism — from the way she purses her lips when she disagrees with somebody, the tone of her voice (how it rises and falls, depending on what she’s feeling at the moment), her manner of walking and dressing and, as Nini herself observed, “even the way she lifted the phone when she answered a call.” Yes, Lorna is Nining-Nini in the movie that’s why I said I didn’t see her there at all; she was so engrossed in the role that, I think, is her best so far, bar none.

After the preview, I got a call from Lolit Solis who was then in Paris with Lorna and company. Lorna was incredulous when I told her how memorable her performance was, regretting that she missed the screening. I asked her who was in her mind in the scenes where she couldn’t contain her emotions and she broke down, and Lorna said, “You know who, I guess.” Yes, her late husband Rudy Fernandez who died of cancer, the same illness that took Nini’s husband.

In fact, the movie’s other actors nicely acquitted themselves: Tirso Cruz III who brought Joe Burgos back to life in the few scenes he was in; Allen Dizon (as Sonny), Dimples Romana (as Peachy, the baby that the Seven Dwarfs used to carry back then), Bangs Garcia (as Ann) and Kirby Zamora (as JL), the Burgos children; with Ina Feleo as Me Ann, wife of Jonas.lorna rocco

As Jonas Burgos, Rocco Nacino gave us more than just a glimpse of Jonas as a loving son and brother, especially in the scenes showing the Burgoses at home or anywhere

hey were together, discussing a family issue (to let Jonas join an NGO or not, put to a vote), enjoying an outing or simply sharing a meal at the family farm in Bulacan (where the wake for Joe was held and where his remains were buried).

Said Ricky, “The script has full of research because at first, we can’t do a make-believe story. We went through the full route of a thorough research and interviews with the Burgos family as well as with their friends. They are real people, real characters, so we can’t invent a story and pass it off as the truth. Direk Joel and I liked the treatment we used in the script — quiet and subdued scenes, no melodrama. The scenes are quiet but forceful.”

How true!

Asked which scene touched her the most (although all the scenes were touching), Nini broke into a faint smile, “The scene showing our family happy together.”

And how did she find Lorna’s performance?

“I’m a Lorna Tolentino fan and she never ceases to amaze me,” admitted Nini. “In this movie, I saw 100 percent of me in her. She’s the right actress for the role.”

After the screening, direk Joel asked Nini to say a few words onstage.

“I always believe that there are no accidents, there are no coincidences,” Nini started. “Everything that happens is meant to happen…Jonas was abducted; he was disappeared, he’s a desaparecido like the children of other mothers, some of whom are here…If there was only one voice who complained when Jonas was abducted…So that is what I ask of you, and that is the message of the film, for us to help at a time when it is needed and to forgive because people sometimes have no command over what they will do…”

Does she still hope to find Jonas…dead or alive?

“All I want now is the truth,” said Nini almost in a whisper, “to know what happened to my son.”

The movie ended on a poignant note, showing Rocco/Jonas and Lorna/Edita on split-screen, Rocco on a bus looking to his left flashing a toothy smile and Lorna at home, waiting in vain, looking to her right, mother and son fated to reunite not here but hereafter, somewhere else, while the Joey Ayala songWalang Hanggan Paalam played as background.

(Produced by Heaven’s Best Entertainment, the production outfit of Harlene Bautista and husband Romnick Sarmenta, Burgos will be shown on Aug. 3 at the CCP Main Theater at 9 p.m. as the closing film of the 2013 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. It has a tentative playdate for its regular run on Aug. 28, with a whole-day screening and a gala premiere in Aug. 26 as a fund-raising event for “Free Jonas Burgos Movement” and “Karapatan Office.”)

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