I didn’t know what to expect when I first met Maricel Soriano. Her first words to me were, “Ang ganda ng treatment. Kailan natin gagawin ‘to?” Whoa!
I will never forget that moment. I felt I was a writer for real. Inang Yaya was going to be made into a film. For Maricel Soriano, it was only a question of when.
I’m not the sort who is easily awed. Actors for me are, well…. actors. No different from everyone else. Being star struck was alien to me, until I worked with Maricel.
Day 2: Seconds before action, we asked Maricel to change from pants to skirt. On the spot, she pulled up a skirt and pulled down her pants. In front of everybody. And just like that, she was ready to grind.
Day 3: In scene 23A, Norma leaves her daughter, Ruby. As touching as this sequence is, it was also one of the most difficult to shoot. We shot it under the noon time sun, from every conceivable angle -- again and again. In every single take, Maricel delivered.
Day 4: Disaster struck. We couldn’t do anything right. Every sequence shot that day we eventually had to reshoot. Save for one. When Maricel wanted to reshoot even that, I felt the full force of Murphy’s Law. She said it lacked honesty. The funny thing was, she was right.
Day 6: Scence 42: Lola Toots accuses Ruby of stealing. I cried. Since then, I have watched scene 42 more than a dozen times and in every preview, embarrassing as it is to admit, I get choked up. The emotions captured are so powerful, you’d have to be heartless to remain unmoved. But on the shoot, everybody was all business. Especially Maricel. She repeatedly reviewed her “choreography” with the steadicam operator, who should stand where and when. She skillfully maneuvered Liza Lorena into position while the camera rolled. Off cam, her first concern was for Tala who was very shaken by the scene. In the making of Scene 42, we were privileged to witness a pro in action.
Day 7: While line reading, Maricel and I had a discussion on the nuances of “Ate” vs. “Ma’am”. I believe there is a ranking on how the household help address their employers. “Ma’am” is often used for the senior matriarch of the clan not necessarily the wife of “Sir”. “Ate” is only 2nd in the heirarchy. For Maricel, “Ate” connotes a more personal tone, signifying domestic familiarity. “Ma’am” however, is used in a more formal setting conveying respect. Both interpretations are valid. I not only appreciated Maricel’s insights but also admired her efforts to read between the lines.
Day 8: In Scene 31, Maricel insisted on waxing the floor, sans gloves, bare handed. Engaging in domestic chores appeals to her. She confided, when she was once required to clean the toilet in a previous film, she actually relished scrubbing the bathroom tiles.
Day 9: “Ewan ko ha, pero may naisip ako…” This was how Maricel approached me to suggest Scene 33A. “Nakikita ko, nagliliparan ang pulbos. Ano kaya kung maglaro ng pulbos ang mga bata?” Tala and Ericka needed no coaching, they had the most fun. What was unexpected was their ganging up on Maricel. They battered her with powder until backed into a corner, she pleaded for them to yield. It was hilarious.
Day 10: Mama Bec, Maricel’s sister shared with us this interesting anecdote: In a prior film, a minor character said to be a really good actor just couldn’t get it right, take after take. He was asked what was wrong. Exasperated he blurted, “Eto naman kasi,” pointing to Maricel, “’yung mga mata n’ya.”
Day 11: In scene 72A, I asked Maricel to crochet me a coaster. She more than eagerly obliged. In a little more than two hours, she gave it to me. On that day I learned, we shared a passion for bed linen, table settings and Christmas decors.
Day 12: Though I’ve rewritten scene 70 repeatedly, I remained dissatisfied with the dialogue. My dilemma: how does a maid talk back to her employer without being insolent? I explained this to Maricel. She understood. What I couldn’t put down in words, she achieved in tone. In scene 70, while appearing subservient, Norma defies Lola Toots.
Day 13: At times we take actors of Maricel’s calibre for granted. They’re so highly skilled, we assume to cry on cue is effortless. In scene 66A, Ruby rejects her mother’s gift. Norma’s line, “E yan lang ang kaya ko,” is delivered with such distressing heartbreak, it is a wonder to watch. What the viewers won’t see on screen is Maricel’s painstaking efforts to set off these emotions before each take and her struggle to control herself after every cut. To see her agonized after repeated takes is disturbing.
Day 14: A few have asked how it is working with Maricel Soriano. Is she okay? The short answer to that is YES. I’m aware that many perceive Maricel as unapproachable. She definitely can be. I’ve been elected on several occasions by the staff to tell her this or that because they’re afraid. Not that I’m any braver than they are, but I just find it easy to talk to her. If you appreciate honesty delivered in utmost candor, you’ll like Maricel. She’ll tell you what she thinks point blank.
Day 15: Maricel doesn’t go malling. She can’t. While shooting in ATC, we needed five security personnel to escort her to the van. In that short trip, from the mall to the parking lot, people swarmed around her. It was fascinating. Comparable to watching a huge cluster of amoeba-like organisms moving as one. How celebrities deal with their fish bowl existence is incomprehensible. Fame comes at too steep a price.
Day 16: Scene 39: Louise nearly drowns during her 7th birthday party, Ruby saves her. This was the day of the big scene. We had shots underwater, shots on the crane, shots using a steadicam, a two camera set-up, a crowd of extras. I rue ever writing scene 39. It was a nightmare. Running around, I saw Maricel smiling at me. She asked, why was I folding towels? I answered, you have to do what you can all around. Why we both laughed is still a puzzle to me.
Day 17: Maricel and I chatted while she had oatmeal for lunch. On several occasions we had this recurring conversation. She’d tell me how much she likes the film, and I’d tell her, “Sana magawa natin ng tama.” Everytime she would get annoyed with me for my remark. I can’t help it. I worry. This is our 1st and maybe our only. But no matter the outcome, we will be grateful no end. Maricel Soriano’s faith in Inang Yaya has made it possible for us to live our dreams.
Maraming salamat, Marya.