Ricky Lee turns emotional at book launch of his classic screenplays

Despite heavy rains that flooded parts of Manila, there was a festive vibe at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival — which returned as an onsite event at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) from 5 to 14 August.

A veritable movie feast, Cinemalaya held screenings, exhibits, talks and launchings including the latest books by screenwriter Ricky Lee, who was recently proclaimed 2022 National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts.

The early 1980s have been very prolific for Lee, who wrote several screenplays which have become classics in Philippine cinema. These were collected in two volumes published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, which also released his short story collection Servando Magdamag at Iba Pang Maiikling Kuwento and Manix Abrera’s graphic novel adaptation of Lee’s Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata in 2021.

His latest books — Mga Screenplay ni Ricky Lee Volume 1: Brutal, Moral, Karnal; and Mga Screenplay ni Ricky Lee Volume 2: Himala, Cain at Abel, at Salome — came just in time with his recent induction into the Order of National Artists, as these contain definitive works etched into the Filipino consciousness, proof that Lee is a compelling storyteller.

‘HIMALA, Cain at Abel, Salome’ screenplay.

The first volume contains the trilogy of women’s stories directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya, also a 2022 National Artist and the first Filipino woman filmmaker to gain prominence in cinema — Brutal (1980), Moral (1982), and Karnal (1983).

The screenplay of Brutal, together with Salome, was published as a book in 1981. Brutal/Salome was regarded as the first book of screenplays in the Philippines, while Moral was likewise published as a book in 1982.

The second volume contains Himala (1982), directed by Ishmael Bernal (2001 National Artist for Cinema) and which starred Nora Aunor (2022 National Artist); Cain at Abel (1982); and Salome (1981).
At the books’ launch, directed by Mac Alejandre and Paolo Villaluna on 9 August at the CCP third-floor hallway, respected actors read excerpts.

Lee with the directors and guest artists at the launch of his books. (Right): ‘Brutal, Moral, Karnal’ screenplay.

Gina Alajar, who starred in Salome, read an excerpt, while Aicelle Santos, lead character in the stage musical version of Himala, was given an excerpt from Karnal.

Agot Isidro and Allen Dizon read an excerpt from Cain at Abel. Judy Ann Santos rendition of Aunor’s famous monologue in Himala (“Walang himala!”) was sedate, tender even.

“Kinakabahan po ako pero isang karangalan ang maimbitahan na gawin ang obra ng dalawang National Artists (I was nervous but it was an honor to be invited to perform the work of two National Artists),” Santos later recounted on her Instagram account (@officialjuday).

Lee was emotional and reminisced his roots as a runaway from Daet, Camarines Norte, and a probinsiyano in Metro Manila who went on to work with Bernal, Laurice Guillen and Diaz-Abaya.
He hopes his other screenplays will be published in succeeding volumes, such as the macho dancer trilogy Sibak: Midnight Dancers, Burlesk King, and Twilight Dancers, and those about overseas Filipino workers such as Anak, Flor Contemplacion, and Bukas May Pangarap.

Lee also wishes this is beginning of the practice of recognizing and giving honor to screenwriters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *