Business unusual at Parade of Stars

By: Bayani San Diego Jr. – It’s show business unusual at the annual Parade of Stars of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), now on its 37th year.

Not even a gloomy weather forecast and raging controversies could dampen the holiday spirit of the celebrities on their ornate floats and the fans who eagerly lined the route taken by the parade from SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City to Quirino Grandstand in Manila yesterday afternoon.

“I just hope it won’t rain,” said Francis Tolentino, chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the government body tasked to spearhead the annual event.

Seven floats took to the streets, depicting the films to be screened during the two-week festival that opens today and ends on Jan. 2. Some floats came built with giant umbrellas and canopies to protect the VIPs from the elements.
The dark cloud of show biz intrigues, however, loomed heavily over this year’s festival. Like in previous editions, the 2011 competition was not spared by the usual spate of scandals.

One of the entries, “Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story,” was slapped with a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by director Tikoy Aguiluz, who obtained the ruling from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on Friday.

Aguiluz claimed that his “intellectual, moral (rights) as author of the film” had been violated. He demanded that his name be deleted from the credits.

Aguiluz also pointed out that the finished film submitted to the festival had been reshot and reedited by the producers, Viva Entertainment and Scenema Concepts.

Because of the TRO, observers initially thought that the film would be barred from participating in the parade and that it would be pulled out of the festival.

Emergency meeting

Minutes before the start of the parade, Tolentino called an emergency meeting of the MMFF executive committee.
In an interview with the Inquirer, the MMDA chair said the film would still be shown on theaters as scheduled today. “The IPO case is between the filmmaker and the producers; the MMFF is not a respondent in the case.”
“I spoke with both parties and they’ve agreed to thresh out their differences. According to the TRO, the producers have 72 hours to comply and I believe the producers have decided to remove Aguiluz’s name from the credits,” he added.

Cherry Amor Julian, Aguiluz’s lawyer, maintained that disrupting the film’s festival run was not her client’s intention in filing a petition for a TRO. “He doesn’t want to stop the screenings. His only goal is the removal of his name.”

Producer Vic del Rosario, head of Viva Entertainment, agreed with MMDA Chair Tolentino: “It’s a problem between Tikoy and [lead star and producer] Gov. Jeorge ‘ER’ Ejercito, who are both my friends. I’m caught in between. I really hope that they solve the problem soon.”

Del Rosario said it was important for an action film like “Asiong” to be included in the festival. “There should also be a film for the male viewers. This year’s lineup offers variety that could lead to positive results at the box office.”

Tolentino said he hoped that this year’s festival would exceed last year’s P500-million box-office receipts.
While the entertainment industry has been reeling from a series of scandals involving squabbling sweethearts (like KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual, and Rhian Ramos and Mo Twister), the country has been similarly rocked by both political storms and natural calamities.

Show must go on

Will this spate of negative news affect the MMFF box-office performance?

The stars certainly hope not.

“The parade is an annual tradition,” said actress Eugene Domingo, who has three entries: “Shake, Rattle & Roll 13,” “My Househusband: Ikaw Na” and “Enteng ng Ina Mo.”

“With the MMFF, we can celebrate even for a while. This said, every Filipino family should offer a fervent prayer for our country … and those with the means should donate to Mindanao now,” Domingo said, alluding to the deadly flash floods unleashed by Tropical Storm “Sendong” in Mindanao last week.

Tolentino said the MMFF executive committee had decided to donate P1 million to flood victims in the worst-hit cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

“Filipinos are resilient,” said Carla Abellana, one of the stars of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” and “Asiong.” “Every day, good and bad things happen, but we in the entertainment industry have the responsibility to bring joy to our people.”

Louise de los Reyes, a cast member of the horror franchise “Shake 13,” said: “Tragedies will enable us to show how united we are—both in the movie industry and in the country as a whole.”

In spite of the calamity, MMFF movies will reportedly open as planned in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan today.

“Look at history. After (Tropical Storm) ‘‘Ondoy” hit us in 2009, the MMFF still pushed through,” Tolentino recalled.

The show must go on, said comedians Vic Sotto and Ai-Ai de las Alas, lead stars of “Enteng.”

“Let’s not forget that the main purpose of the festival is to raise funds for the less fortunate in the industry,” Sotto said.

“I don’t think the box office will be affected. Filipinos will be able to recover,” De las Alas added.

Judy Ann Santos, star of “Househusband,” agreed: “Filipinos have the gift of being able to forget their problems simply because it’s the holiday season.”

But Jose Javier Reyes, director of “Househusband,” pointed out that “more than the scandals and the tragedies, it’s the economic downturn that may affect the box-office results. Everyone is scrimping. A lot of people in the retail industry are complaining of low sales.”

Floats galore

Ryan Agoncillo, “Househusband” star, remained optimistic: “Within an hour, the streets were suddenly filled with people who wanted to watch the parade. It’s like they’re fulfilling a panata (vow).”

The stars indeed fulfilled their promise to their fans.

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Marian Rivera, Iza Calzado and Phillip Salvador shared the “Ang Panday 2” float, which featured dragons and other otherworldly creatures from the action-fantasy franchise.

On their Disney castle-themed float, Sotto and De las Alas led the big cast of “Enteng,”a comedy-fantasy flick that unites two popular festival franchises.

Comedienne Domingo and fellow cast members (Maricar Reyes, Zanjoe Marudo, Edgar Allan Guzman, Kathryn Bernardo, De los Reyes and Sam Concepcion, among others) rode the float of the horror trilogy franchise “Shake 13,” which features ominous-looking caves and a spooky lighthouse.

Real-life couple Santos and Agoncillo and their apron-wearing costars drew cheers from atop the float of the domestic comedy “Househusband.”

Controversial star Maricel Soriano joined younger costars Jericho Rosales, Lovi Poe, Solenn Heussaff and Abellana who all came in white tees on the float of “Yesterday.”

The stars of “Segunda Mano”—President Aquino’s sister Kris Aquino and presidential spokesperson for the youth Dingdong Dantes and actress Angelica Panganiban—rode a float decked with a giant designer bag.

Laguna Governor Ejercito, garbed in 1950s fashion and flanked by an all-star cast of mobsters (John Regala, Yul Servo, Baron Geisler, Dennis Padilla, Archie Adamos, among others), presided over his gang on the float for the action-drama “Asiong.”

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