A Star is Re-Born

Judy Ann Santos is the poster girl for Show Biz Success Story.

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Judy Ann Santos is the poster girl for Show Biz Success Story. She went from precocious child actress to chubby but popular teen star to serious dramatic actress/producer. Plus, she's rich, thin, and beautiful. Also, she married her fiancé Ryan Agoncillo in a private and very classy out of town summer wedding last April. Good for her, I say. For anyone who ever called her baduy–are you anywhere nearly as successful as Juday?

Honestly, I heart Juday even if I never watched any of her movies–until I watched Ploning. Now I heart Juday even more.

Ploning is the story of a beautiful and kind woman living in a sleepy town on the island of Cuyo in Palawan. She is a dutiful daughter to her aging papa, a thoughtful friend, and a tenderhearted surrogate mother to an adorable little boy named Digo. Despite her loveliness, Ploning is unmarried because she waits for Tomas, the love of her life, who left Cuyo for Manila and never returned. She never speaks of her lost love, and continues to patiently make cashew brittle with the womenfolk, help out the townspeople, and wait silently by the shore. The movie is told in flashback, a la Cinema Paradiso, from the point of view of the grown up Digo, gorgeous Bodjong Fernandez who was apparently discovered while working as still photographer on set.

Juday is supported by an amazing cast, including luminaries such as the elegant Tony Mabesa, Gina Pareño, Tessie Tomas, Spanky Manikan, Ces Quesada, Eugene Domingo, with Joel Torre and Ronnie Lazaro in cameo roles. The film also features a slew of talented young actors: Ketchup Eusebio, Mylene Dizon, Beth Tamayo, Meryl Soriano, Jojit Lorenzo, and Crispin Pineda. On Cuyo, the makers of Ploning found a golden boy to play five year old Digo: Cedric Amit is a natural and a complete joy to watch. Apparently all he asked for was a bicycle and a trip to Manila. The films producers (Panoramanila) started an educational fund for the boy.

Of course it's all about Judy Ann, who was caught by cinematographer Charlie Peralta in the most flattering light. In this movie, she doesn't need to bring the big drama guns. It's all in her eyes and her genteel tones: that quiet desperation for a love that will never return.

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The film was submitted as the official entry of the Philippines for the 2009 Academy Awards. Judy Ann campaigned hard to get a nomination, alas, Ploning was snubbed. Was it the timid plot or the language barrier?

In the end, it doesn't really matter. In that corner of the world where Ploning was shot, Oscar awards do not exist. Director Dante Nico Garcia's slow and sweet film, based on a haunting Cuyonon folk song, is drenched in sunshine and salty breezes. Here, small town Philippines is conveyed at its best–with stunning sunsets, warm people, where traditional values of family, loyalty, and hope still exist.

Ploning is available on DVD at all Astrovision outlets.

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