Justine Samson, the child actor who confronted Sid Lucero after the gala screening of Khavn dela Cruz's "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness," won the Best Actor trophy on Thursday during the QCinema International Film Festival 2017 awards night at Novotel, Quezon City.
Samson played Kulas, a 10-year-old survivor of the Balangiga massacre.
Samson, who turned 9 while shooting the movie last September, beat older contenders Timothy Castillo ("Neomanila") and Charles Salazar ("Dormitoryo: Mga Walang Katapusang Kwarto").
Samson was in Tacloban City when he learned of the award. One of his relatives saw the festival's announcement on Facebook, said Gianfanco Morciano, the film's co-assistant director.
Morciano, a Tacloban resident, was the one who gave an introductory acting workshop to Samson.
"Excited na raw si Justine na makuha ang trophy nya," Morciano told ABS-CBN News on Friday. "Noong nalaman nila na nominated si Justine, masayang masaya na sila. Mas lalo na ngayon."
They didn't expect to win since the other contenders are older and more experienced actors.
"The good news they relayed back to us was that they used Justine's talent fee from the film to buy a small lot where they can build a house someday," he added.
Samson and his two younger brothers have been living with their grandmother, Marilyn, after their parents got separated.
Marilyn's daughter Carla didn't marry Samson's father. Both have their own partners now, Marilyn told us during the gala night. It is for this reason why Justine still carries Samson as his surname. Marilyn said Carla's very happy of her son’s newfound career.
Morciano told ABS-CBN News that the Samsons are residing in a "nearly squatters' area" in Brgy. Calvary Hill in Tacloban City.
It is a hilly portion of Tacloban though it's near the seashore. They were among the few survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) in 2013.
Tacloban was ground zero of the devastation and Samson was only four years old when the disaster happened.
"Balangiga: Howling Wilderness," despite the controversy it hurdled over the abrupt reclassification from General Patronage to R13, won Best Film.
QCinema jury gave the award for "its solid vision, with sensitive performances paired with strong visual, aural and poetic narrative, it is an elegy to the tragic history of the Philippines as seen through the eyes of a boy that is both a celebration and a lamentation of humanity."
Dela Cruz also won Best Director, his first award from a local international film festival. "Balangiga" is his 51st film.
"Sana mapanood din nina Vice Ganda at Coco Martin ang 'Balangiga,'" Dela Cruz told us. He said he is hoping more people, especially children, will get to see "Balangiga."
During the awards night, fashion kibitzers noticed Dela Cruz was wearing an outfit inspired by Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda.
Pio del Rio, who played grandfather to Samson in the film, won Best Supporting Actor. Del Rio, like Samson, is also a first-time actor plucked by Dela Cruz from Tacloban. Del Rio is a native of Marabut, Samar but he now lives in Tacloban with his family.
“He was just drinking tuba (coconut wine) with his friends in a street corner near the barangay center where we auditioned children for the role of Kulas. One of the kids who was auditioning needed someone older for the exchange of dialogues. The kid didn't get the part, but Lolo Pio did a better job so we got him," Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz is still hoping "Balangiga" will be granted a GP rating after the QCinema festival, which is ongoing until Sunday. He said he is willing to re-edit "Balangiga" and cut the specific scenes required for the GP rating.
ABS-CBN News tried to get Lucero's comment on "the boy who confronted him over Cardo's safety" but there's no response as of press time.
The winners received a new Pylon trophy designed by visual artist and sculptor Reg Yuson.
The other winners are:
Audience Choice for feature length category : "Neomanila" by Mikhail Red
QC Shorts Audience Awards: "Kun' di Man" by Phyllis Grande
Asian Next Wave Best Film : "Marlina the Murder in Four Acts" by Mouly Surya
QC Shorts Best Picture : "Babylon" by Keith Deligero
Rainbow QC Best Picture: "Close-Knit" by Naoko Ogigami
NETPAC Jury Prize (Circle): "Dapol Tan Payawar Na Tayug 193" by Christopher Gozum
NETPAC Jury Prize (Rainbow QC): "Beach Rats" by Eliza Hittman
NETPAC Jury Prize (Asian Next Wave): "Snow Woman" by Kiki Sugino
NETPAC Jury Prize (Short film): "Gikan Sa Ngitngit Nga Kinailadman" by Kiri Dalena
Gender Sensitivity Award: "Dormitoryo (Mga Walang Katapusang Kwarto)"
Best Screenplay: Andrian Legaspi and John Bedia for "The Chanters"
Best Artistic Achievement (Cinematography): Myko David for "Neomanila"
Best Actress: Jally Nai Gilbaliga for "The Chanters"
Best Supporting Actress: Sheenly Gener for "Dormitoryo"
The feature length or Circle competition festival jury members are Erik Matti, media content strategist Najwa Abubakar, veteran juror Axel Estein, and French-Cambodian director Davy Chou.
For the Asian Next Wave Competition, they are blockbuster filmmaker Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, critic-magazine editor Philbert Dy, and Hollywood Reporter bureau chief Clarence Tsui.
Poet-film critic J. Neil Garcia and filmmakers Johnny Symons and Ray Yeung made up the RainbowQC Competition jury. The Rainbow QC category carries films with themes that cater to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
All winners brought home a Pylon trophy, besides the corresponding cash prizes (or their equivalent) for some select categories, designed by visual artist and sculptor Reg Yuson.
The awards night was hosted by comedian-actor Empoy Marquez and sexy actress Max Collins.