Cameo of my parents home in a film with religious flavor

from the balcony

Ikaw Ang Pag-Ibig (You Are Love), the latest movie by the award-winning Philippine director Marilou Diaz-Abaya, was partly shot in my parents home. It hits Philippine theaters tomorrow, September 14. Here’s a synopsis from the film’s site:

The movie revolves around a young, contemporary, rebellious woman Vangie Cruz (Ina Feleo), whose family life and career as a video editor are disrupted when her only brother, a newly ordained priest, Fr. Johnny (Marvin Agustin), is diagnosed of [sic] Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). As a sibling, Vangie is called upon to be a donor for Fr. Johnny’s bone marrow transplant. At first, Vangie is very reluctant. She has a clinical phobia for [sic] medical precedures, the reasons for which are rooted in an attempted, but botched, abortion which she suffered through many earlier and has since been troubled about. Her life is saved by Dr. Joey Lucas (Jomari Yllana) with whom she has a love child, and whom she eventually marries.

Vangie’s dysfunctional family gravitates around Fr. Johnny, and in their struggle to cope with his illness, find themselves drawn to INA (?!?), begging for her intercession. Their prayers are answered, not so much by way of a miraculous cure for Fr. Johnny, but by the grace of conversion, of love, of forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.

The trailer for this movie is a sentimental, sappy mess…very heavy-handed with our particularly emotional brand of Catholic fervour and melodrama, the swelling music hinting at the maudlin intercession of a venerated statue, the cheesiest kind of pulling-your-heartstrings dialogue, enough pathos-around-the-death-bed scenes to compete with Brideshead Revisited,  and mediocre shots of Filipino suburban ‘dysfunctional’ family life.

In a word, ghastly.

Approved by a dozen Catholic film and education boards, this is a film that kids will be forced to watch a dozen times during their years at school, now and forever, till Kingdom come, amen. Sort of the way we were regularly doused with The Selfish Giant or movies about Our Lady of Fatima. There are moral messages in this film on abortion, on separation, on having children out of wedlock, on adultery, on one’s flagging faith, on charity and selfless giving…when Marilou Diaz-Abaya throws a picnic, you get to eat every single part of the Sacred Cow. I fucking hope the audience is hungry!

But the work is of slight interest to me for one reason: parts of it show my parents’ home, where I grew up, and as the family is planning on selling this house (too large for Mum and Dad to manage, now that they live there by themselves) I may grab a DVD of the film, when it becomes available, to have something else to remember the big gabled house on Hill Drive by.

The following shots were taken by my Dad, who was thrilled to bits by all the hustle and bustle when the film crews moved in.

fake sunlight

The garden was greened up for the film, and a massive spotlight beamed into the dining room windows to imitate a brilliant early-morning sunlight while the crew shot, at all times of the day or night.

a boy's bedroom

One of the kids’ bedrooms (my brothers and I rotated occasionally, for a change of scenery, so we’ve all had this room at some point in our childhoods) was transformed into a little boy’s room for the film. It was never quite so thematically a kid’s room when we ourselves lived here! Don’t understand why, after all the trouble of assembling toys and painting walls blue, the curtains are so mismatched, and the bedsheets haven’t been ironed. I’m just being nit-picky. 🙂

We ourselves never had curtains in our bedrooms, there were wooden louvres to pull across the windows when we wanted privacy. The other bedroom is even funnier…was done up as a young woman’s room, with very stuffy boudoir old rose wallpaper and a dresser with Post-it notes like “Call Johnny” stuck to the mirror. My family continued to live in the house during the filming, with photographs of a family of actors arranged in frames atop the piano, and my thirty-something brother trying to live a normal life surrounded by an 8-year-old’s teddy bear and Star Wars collection.

crew in the house

For the record, here’s the official trailer. It’s not sub-titled, and I was disappointed to see so little of the actual house in it. No doubt there will be more glimpses in the actual film. Which I may steel myself with a vodka and cigarette some night, and watch.


5 thoughts on “Cameo of my parents home in a film with religious flavor

    1. LOL fair enough, fair enough…this seemed to come out of nowhere, so I had you down for a just another hater. But okay, anonymous or not, it wasn’t too hard to figure out who you are, (wow, that was ages ago, which is why I didn’t make the connection at all) and I understand where this comes from now. So, touché! Should not have said what I said of your video, I was in a bitchy mood that day, all right! One nasty comment deserves another! Rest easy, bluebell, my opinions are of no consequence at all. 🙂 Thank you. You have inspired me to try my first stop-motion animation, featuring a septic bitch who sticks a pine tree up her ass…taking care of two birds with one stone, hopefully.


  1. How strange to see your home portrayed like that..sounds like a great place….the Catholics seem to be good at stuffing information down people’s throats… Not sure it’s done any religion any good. I love some of its rituals and I like the ‘Christian’ ideals….but I do think that the closer they sit to the front of the church the bigger the hypocrite… sorry Nat….have had some run-ins with money grabbing members of the church…. I should stick to talking about craft…..unless we have wine to drink with the discussions….ha ha


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