8 things you didn’t know about Lav Diaz’s ‘Ang Babaeng Humayo’

Alexa Villano
8 things you didn’t know about Lav Diaz’s ‘Ang Babaeng Humayo’
Go behind the scenes of this award-winning film from Lav Diaz!

MANILA, Philippines – After winning the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left), starring Charo Santos and John Lloyd Cruz, will finally be shown in the Philippines starting September 28. 

Directed by Lav Diaz, Ang Babaeng Humayo is Charo’s first film after stepping down from her duties as president of ABS-CBN. She currently serves as Chief Content Officer of the TV station and the executive adviser to the chairman. She also runs ABS-CBN University.

Lav’s movie is about Horacia (Charo Santos), a former schoolteacher who is released from prison, where she was kept for a crime she didn’t commit. After returning home, she seeks revenge against the man who framed her, and in the process develops a friendship with Hollanda (John Lloyd Cruz).

Here are some facts about the film.

Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

1. Charo Santos-Concio on why she accepted the project. According to Charo, she accepted the film following a conversation with Direk Lav, during a thanksgiving dinner for his film Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery). 

“Sinabi ko rin po ito sa press conference nung nasa Venice kami,” Charo said during the movie’s press conference last September 21. “I want to work with Lav Diaz. I want to understand his cinema, why he makes long-running films…masyado ko na appreciate yung freedom na binibigay niya sa performers niya.”

(I also said this during the press conference when we were in Venice. I want to work with Lav Diaz. I want to understand his cinema, why he makes long-running films… I really appreciate the freeedom he gives to his performers.)

After the press conference, Charo told reporters what she observed about the award-winning filmmaker after working with him. 

His cinema is free. Wala siyang (He has no) boundaries, wala siyang (he has no) rules. He always pushes the edge of the envelope. And he allows you, gives you the space and freedom to interpret your character, the way you see in the context of the narrative,” she said.


Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

2. On location. The film was shot in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, where Charo is from.

Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals/Star Cinema

On her role as Horacia, Charo said she needed to act very masculine in some of the scenes, and that was a bit challenging. 

“I think as a person I’m observant. To begin with I’m observant. And so when you’re acting you forget about yourself. Because it’s not about you, it’s never about you, it’s about the character that you portray. And kung ano yung na oobserve ko, yung ang ginagawa ko (And what I observe, that’s what I do), with a lot of help also from feedback from other people.

Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals/Star Cinema

“Like I spoke to some friends na paano ba yung astig-astigpaano ba yung male na kilos, nasaan ba yung core n’yo, saan ang weight, yung mga ganyan,” she said.

(Like I spoke to some friends how to act masculine, how to move like a man, where’s their core, where they put their weight on, those kind of things.)


Yung pinaka nahirapan ako kasi si direk Lav hindi nag-cucut diba? His scenes would run for 5 minutes 10 minutes, so sorry ka na lang kung mabigyan ka ng monologue and you have to memorize. You cannot change a word because his writing is very lyrical.”

(What was hard for me was that direk Lav doesn’t cut right? His scenes would run for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, so sorry if you’re given a monologue and you have to memorize. You cannot change a word because his writing is very lyrical.)

3. John Lloyd on his role. In the movie, John goes beyond his comfort zone and takes on the role of Hollanda. The Hollywood Reporter describes Hollanda as an “epileptic drag artist.”

In an interview with reporters last September 15, John Lloyd said that beyond the physical transformation, that challenge in doing Hollanda was giving life to the character.

“Well, the physical transformation was challenging,” John Lloyd said. “Pero, mas mahirap lagi kung paano mo siya bibigyan ng buhay, kung paano mo siya bibigyan ng puso, kung paano mo maabot yung kanyang estado. Mentally, emotionally, kasi you’re talking about a very tormented soul.

(But it’s difficult how you’ll breathe life into the character, how you’ll give it heart, how you’ll get to the character’s state.)

Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals/Star Cinema

Nahirapan na siya makita yung daan niya sa buhay, nahihirapan na siyang mag-move on sa buhay niya na may paniniwala pa na one day, magiging maayos ang lahat at magtitiwala ka ulit sa kabutihan. So mas mahirap pasukin iyon kaysa sa physical transformation,” he said.

(She’s having a hard time seeing her what life lies ahead of her, difficulty on how to move on with life, that one day, everything will be okay and something good will happen. So that’s more difficult to get into than the physical transformation.) 

4. Cacai Bautista and Mae Paner on Charo. During the press conference for the movie, two of the cast members, Cacai Bautista and Mae Paner or known as Juana Change, shared their experiences working with Charo.

Mae said of her experience with Charo: “Si Charo pagka-eksena ko, wow! sabi ko. Tuwang-tuwa talaga ako. So napaka-fun nung experience namin ni Charo kasi, hindi talaga kami magkakilala, and tapos nung shooting namin first day ‘di ba, so nagtuturuan kami […]”

(When I’m in a scene with Charo, I was like wow! I was really happy. Charo and I had a fun experience, because we didn’t know each other, and it was the first day of shooting, so we were teaching each other[…]) 

Photo from Rob Reyes/Rappler

Cacai said that she did not know at first that Charo was part of the movie. She even kept asking the producers about who were part of the cast. 

Nagbi-breakfast ako, nasa hotel kami sa Mindoro, dumarating, Charo Santos, pak!” Cacai shared. 

(I was having breakfast, we were in a hotel in Mindoro, arriving was Charo Santos, pak!)

Bukod araw-araw akong nai-starstruck sa kanyasi Mama Mary ba bumaba sa lupa?” Cacai said.

(Aside from being starstruck everyday with her… did Mama Mary come down here on earth?)

She also shared that even if Charo was an executive of a company, they never felt it during the time they were shooting.

Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

5. Charo had an immersion session at the National Bilibid Prison. In preparation for her role in the movie, Charo went to the National Bilibid Prison, specifically the Correctional Institution for Women.

Una, na shock ako. Lalong-lalo na sa mga bata na nandoon. Parang pagtinanong ko, ilang taon ka na, tapos sasagutin nila sa akin 24 years old, ‘hija, bakit ka nandito? Anong ginagawa mo dito?’

(At first I was shock. Especially with the young ones inside. If I asked them how old they are and they would answer me 24 years old, dear, why are you here? What are you doing here?)

“And really it’s all in the context of kahirapan (poverty). And you know the social injustice noh. So, may halong lungkot at tsaka yung tumitigil yung buhay para sa kanila. But again, they also choose to see the bright side and say that, ‘pero maayos naman po yung buhay namin dito, nakakakain kami ng 3 decent meals a day. Whereas in, nasa labas po ako minsan, kamatis yung pagkain ko nung pasko.’ Yung ganun,” she said. 

(So there is some sadness, and life stops for them. But again, they choose to see the bright side and say that, ‘but our lives inside here are okay, we eat 3 decent meals a day. Whereas when I was still outside the prison, all I would eat was tomato during Christmas.’ That kind of thing.) 

Despite the situation, Charo said that she saw many of the prisoners trying to see the positive from their experiences inside the prison.

Nakakatuwa kasi may nakukuha kang lakas. May nakukuha kang lakas, and I think that’s what I also brought with me as Horacia, when I went out into the world with a bitter heart, wanting revenge diba? My plight. When I met good people along the way, bumalik yung goodness in all of us.”

(It’s very inspiring and you get strength from it. You get strength and I think that’s what I also brought with me as Horacia, when I went out into the world with a bitter heart, wanting revenge right? My plight. When I met good people along the way, the goodness in all of us came back.)


Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler


6. Celebs on the red carpet.  Charo was also asked about her experience during the film festival, where she got to see some of top actors around the world. 

John Lloyd and Charo previously attended the Venice Film Festival, where the film was screened as well. Charo also traveled to Canada, where the film was shown at the Toronto Film Festival. 

Oo naman,” she said when asked if she still gets starstruck. “Hanggang ngayon fan naman ako eh diba? Na-starstruck nga ako kay Tom Ford eh, kay Sam Mendes[…,] I saw Natalie Portman walk the red carpet.”

(Of course. Up to now I’m still a fan right? I got starstruck with Tom Ford, Sam Mendes[…])

#BiennaleCinema2016 #NataliePortman #Planetarium at the #Venezia73 #beautystar #Venezia #Lido Photo @jacopo_salvi

A photo posted by La Biennale di Venezia (@labiennale) on


7. Charo and John Lloyd on working with each other. This is also the first project together for John Lloyd and Charo. 

Asked how it was working with the ABS-CBN boss, John Lloyd joked: “It’s so difficult to work with her.”

“Ma’am Charo, syempre ngayon ko lang siya nakita sa labas ng… kilala ko lang si Ma’am Charo you know na kahit gaano siya kabait, kahit gaano siya ka down to earth, well she’s still the boss. Especially pag nandoon tayo sa bakuran natin,” John Lloyd said, referring to ABS-CBN.

(Ma’am Charo, of course this is the first time I saw her… I know Ma’am Charo, that no matter how nice she is, how down to earth she is, well she’s still the boss. Especially when we’re in our area.)

Pero sobrang na-amaze ako because when you work with Lav, especially sa maliit na production, kilala mo lahat ng tao, kayo-kayo lang iyon, iilan lang kayo. And she was one of us. We ride the same van, we eat the same food, we stay at the same hotel. Parang nakakatuwa kasi ang point ko is syempre she’s playing a character, she’s playing a role, malaki yung naitulong nun sa akin because, hindi ko na kinailangan pang i-break iyon.

(But I was amazed because when you work with Lav, especially in a small production, you all know each other, it’s just a few of you. And she was one of us. We ride the same van, we eat the same food, we stay at the same hotel. It’s just nice because my point here is she’s playing a character, she’s playing a role and that was a great help to me because I did not have to break it anymore.)

Photo by Alexa Villano/Rappler

 “Kasi syempre magiging effective ka lang naman kung paano ka tinutulugan nung ka-eksena mo diba. And hindi ako nahirapan doon dahil napaka-generous ni Ma’am Charo in that sense. Never kaming nakaramdam sa set na si Ma’am Charo siya,” John Lloyd said.

(Because you’ll be effective if your co-actor helps you in the scene. And I did not have a hard time because Ma’am Charo was generous in that sense. We never felt on set that she was “Ma’am Charo” at all.)

Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema

Naku, si John Lloyd seryosong-seryoso sa craft nya. Method actor yata…hindi mo makausap kahit na lunch break,” said Charo of John Lloyd.

(John Lloyd is very serious when it comes to his craft. I think he’s a method actor… you can’t talk to him even during lunch break.)

Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

“The moment he sits down for his makeup, in character na siya but really he’s in character all the way until the last shooting day,” she said adding that he only becomes John Lloyd again after finishing his scenes.

She added after the presscon: Magaling siya at madaling katrabaho. Yun na nga, seryosong-seryoso artist kung matatawag. Pinang-aaralan niya ang kanyang papel, pinaghahandaan niya. Diba he doesn’t take anything for granted. I also understand that he immersed in some gay bars or something.”

(He’s very good and easy to work with. As i said, he’s a serious artist as we can call it. He studies his role, he prepares for it.)

8. On Ma’Rosa. 

With the win at Venice, some expressed hopes that the movie would be the one sent as the country’s bet to the Foreign Language movie category in next year’s Academy Awards. The movie Ma’Rosa, which earned Jaclyn Jose a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, has the honor. 

It’s not within our control. There’s a selection committee and this with the Film Academy of the Philippines.

“They made a decision. Sabi ko nga iba-iba’t ang pagtingin natin, ibang-iba ang panglasa natin, let respect that and let’s just support the film that they’ve chosen,” Charo said.

(As I said, we have different ways of seeing it, different tastes, let’s respect the film they’ve chosen.)

John Lloyd on the other hand said: “We have a good film. I think we have an awesome film for the Oscars para sa best Foreign Language, Ma’ Rosa.

“I mean Ma’ Rosa was stunning, sobrang ganda ng (it was really beautiful) Ma’Rosa and yeah dapat. Congratulations din kay Direk Brillante [Mendoza], to the one and only Ms. Jaclyn Jose, congratulations. I saw it, grabe I’m in awe,” he said. 

Porduced by Cinema One Originals and Sine Olivia Pilipinas with distribution by Star Cinema, Ang Babaeng Humayo also stars Michael de Mesa, Nonie Buencamino, Shamaine Buencamino, Mae Paner, and Kakai Bautista. 

The film opens September 28. – Rappler.com



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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.