Monday, January 17, 2011

Filming of Amigo in Bohol: The Second Invasion

This is the story that came out when filming of Amigo in Bohol had been almost completed. It had been reedited for period accuracy.


Filming for the John Sayles movie "Amigo" coincided with the 111th anniversary of the outbreak of Philippine-American War. It came with a blast of color and action in Maribojoc, Loay, Corella, Loon, Antequera and Panglao towns.

The American flag unfurled on a tower with a Spanish-era stone church as backdrop in the village of Toril, Maribojoc, on the first weeks of shooting. Villagers were garrisoned by uniformed American soldiers in an apparent "invasion." Meanwhile, Katipunan guerilla snipers ambushed a regiment in a ricefield there. A firefight took place.

 There was a war. But it was only a John Sayles movie in the making on the Philippine-American War, often called the "first Vietnam War," which very few people in the world know about.

Colonel Hardacre, played by academy award winner Chris Cooper, made strategic plans and held "office" at the Clarin Ancestral House in Loay town with Melanie Clarin, a descendant of the prominent Clarin clan, serving as set medic for the production.

The cabeza del barrio, played by veteran actor Joel Torre, was dragged by a horse along an oxcart road in Toril, Maribojoc, and American soldiers marched in formation on a scenic field in Canangcaan, Corella town. These are some scenes that dramatized the initial relations between occupying U.S. forces and Filipinos in a village in the 1900s.

Conditions in the set, however, changed on break time as production people and villagers, some playing themselves, exchanged banter and photo-ops with both local and hollywood stars. With veteran actor Spanky Manikan and real cockfighting afficionado Jonas Almonical acting, the international cast witnessed a cockfight on site. 

In the main set in Toril, villagers of the film's barrio San Isidro experienced an "election," a kind of re-enactment of what might have been the first election of an official under the American flag. A fiesta, complete with a procession and a marching band, took place in the set one night under the guidance of the character Nenong, played by actor John Arcilla.

Katipunan guerilla leaders played by veteran actors Bembol Rocco, Ronnie Lazaro and Pen Medina discussed their next move in a cave in Basdacu, Loon while bats flew around, and a simulated rain poured outside.

Veteran actresses Rio Locsin and Irma Adlawan attended Mass and received communion in Panglao town's San Agustin Church sacristy turned into the interior of a Spanish-era church located on the main village set in Toril.

In a stream in Matan-ag, a herd of carabaos were cinematically "massacred" as part of a tactical move by the occupying American forces to prevent villagers from supplying Katipuneros with food and other supplies.

Ricefields had been planted in the main set in time for a harvest scene in the film, and at some point, some were "burned," again to show one of the tactical moves made by the Americans against Filipino insurgents.

Filming was completed in a "jungle camp" scene called Boho-boho, a snake pit, by locals, and along a river near Sto-Rosario, Antequera, where local actor James Obenza came running on a bamboo bridge to escape the American "invaders" only to be stopped by a band of Katipuneros. 

After post-production editing was done in a rest house fronting Talisay beach in Tagbilaran,  the John Sayles movie "Amigo" had been screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, the London International Film Festival, and at Los Angeles for AFI.