“Bakit mo gustong patayin si Cardo?” asked eight-year-old Justine Samson, wearing a hooded leather jacket, his hands on his side pockets.
Samson was addressing actor Sid Lucero, who plays Major Manolo Catindig, second-in-command “kontrabida” in ABS-CBN’s daily top-rating primetime action-drama series, “Ang Probinsyano.” “Cardo” or SPO2 Ricardo Dalisay is the television persona of lead star Coco Martin.
It was the gala night screening for cult filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz’s “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness,” where Samson is lead actor. Lucero was just passing by, waiting for his turn to get inside the cinema to watch sister Maxene Eigenmann, who was in Jobin Ballesteros’ “Kulay Lila ang Gabi na Binudburan pa ng mga Bituin.” “Kulay Lila” followed “Balangiga” in that day’s gala screening in the ongoing QCinema International Film Festival.
“Anong pangalan mo?” Lucero, half-smiling, asked the defiant boy. Without the customary Filipino expression “po,” Samson told Lucero his full name, his head held up high.
Marilyn, the boy’s grandmother, took notice of the amusing “confrontation.” She called Samson, who readily went to her side. She apologized to Lucero and asked for a selfie. Everybody laughed.
“Gabi-gabi kasi pagkakain ng hapunan, sabay kami ni Justine nanonood ng ‘Probinsyano’ kaya kilala niya si Sid Lucero,” the grandmother told this writer, still laughing as Samson posed for pictures, not with Lucero but with other cinemagoers.
Samson is her eldest apo, she told me. He has two younger siblings. When the boys’ parents got separated, they were all left under Marilyn’s care. They live in an economically challenged village on the elevated part of Brgy. Calvary Hill in Tacloban City, said Tacloban-resident Gianfranco Morciano, the film’s assistant director who also facilitated the audition.
Samson studies at Kapangi-an Elementary School in Tacloban City. Without any acting experience, he was among the many who auditioned a few months ago for the role of Kulas, the 10-year-old boy who survives the Balangiga carnage in Khavn’s film. Kulas fights all the odds, struggles against forces of nature, the evils of warring adults to find his mother in another town. Or not.
More than the historical context, “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” tells the atrocities of war in the point of view of a child.
That night, Samson posed for selfies the same way Lucero did. Because he is the star of the night, not Lucero. But the boy was restless. He didn’t want all those attention from strangers. His eyes were now on the arcade machines at the nearby Timezone Entertainment Center, like all kids would.
A few hours later, at the crack of dawn, Samson would travel back with Marilyn to their hometown. And they would talk about the experience. The gala night. Meeting Sid Lucero, the bad guy who wants Cardo, his idol, dead.
They will continue watching “Ang Probinsyano” after “hapunan.”