5 reasons to watch ‘Ang Larawan’ on Christmas Day

Rachel Alejandro
5 reasons to watch ‘Ang Larawan’ on Christmas Day
Actress Rachel Alejandro explains why you should catch this historical drama at the Metro Manila Film Festival 2017

Did you know that after the first two days of the Metro Manila Film Festival, cinemas assigned to screening a particular entry already have the option to drop that film and choose to show another better performing movie?

I hope that doesn’t happen to our musical/historical/drama film, Ang Larawan.

Ang Larawan can be described as being the most different, most unusual of all the 8 finalists that made it into this year’s festival roster. I would even go as far as to say that this type of film has never been done. I will explain the reason for that later.

Our movie is so out-of-the-box that it’s easy for some to dismiss it as being “not commercial” despite the star-studded cast.

If you intend to watch Ang Larawan based on what you’ve already heard about it, God bless your heart. I will stake my reputation on this promise: you will not regret spending P285 and two hours of your life.


To those still unconvinced, as one of the lead actors and producers of Ang Larawan, do allow me to make a case for why it’s an important film for you and your family to experience on Christmas Day, or the very latest, on December 26. 

Here are my top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t miss it.

1. Joanna Ampil deserves to win the Best Actress award.

If your reaction to this is, “Joanna who?” and you have not had the chance to catch this well established West End actress in Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, or the local production of Bridges of Madison County, you are in for a pleasant surprise. It’s clear why she continues to be one of the most in demand international Pinay actors today. After working on our film, she was once again called to headline the world tour of Cats, which she has been doing for the past few years.

I play the soft-spoken, old maid Paula Marasigan and Joanna plays my older sister, the outwardly strong and stern, Candida. To say that Candida is no easy role is a huge understatement, but Joanna not only nailed it, her heartbreaking performance was also jaw-dropping. And I had the best view.

MARASIGAN SISTERS. Joanna Ampil and I as the famed Marasigan sisters of Nick Joaquin's Portrait of the Artist as Filipino now on film as Ang Larawan. Photo by Jojit Lorenzo

In one scene, I was just a few feet away from her as she spoke some of the most painful dialogue, gave me a split-second look of regret – like she was saying sorry and wanted to hug me and take it all back – and then the next second, willed herself to walk away. She said all that with just one look. Damn, Joanna!

2. You’ll get goosebumps with Ryan Cayabyab’s music, played by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

What can I say? I have been obsessed with Mr C’s music for Ang Larawan since I first heard it when it was staged as a musical at the CCP in the late ’90s. When I had to re-learn it for the film, I didn’t have to do much of anything. It was all still there – the beautiful words of National Artist Rolando Tinio, and the haunting melodies of Ryan. It was like an intact file in my brain – all I had to do was click on it and it came tumbling out.

A review by Lawrence Harmon, former columnist for the Boston Globe, best describes it: “Lush orchestration accompanies the vocal passages, which are interspersed with spoken dialogue, memorable duets, and choral segments equal to the best of Broadway or London’s West End.”

In my humble view, Ang Larawan is not only Ryan’s best work, it is BETTER than some of those hit musicals. Don’t take my word for it – before we open, get a copy of the OST released by Star Music on Spotify, iTunes, etc, and as a limited edition vinyl record from our website.


3. You will cry buckets.

Thanks to the masterful direction of award-winning film director and Broadway scenic designer Loy Arcenas, Ang Larawan‘s plot unfolds seemingly slowly at first, but the drama intensifies and never lets up until the breathtaking finale. Combine excellent storytelling with Gino Gonzales’ flawless production design and Boy Yñiguez’s cinematography, and every frame of the film is a work of art. In fact, it is the first Filipino film this year to have been rated A unanimously by the Cinema Evaluation Board.

BY THE WINDOW. An iconic scene from the play/musical known as 'Walang Ilaw' (no electricity) was shot beautifully for the film. Photo courtesy of Culturtain Musicat Productions

Fans of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s beloved play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, on which the film is based, will find that the story is further clarified and the characters fleshed out more in this film adaptation. One of the critics that attended our recent preview even remarked that this was the first time he fully understood the story and its relevance.

Most of our audiences, including the Japanese people who came to watch when we had our world premiere in Tokyo, wept as they cheered for Candida and Paula. As a Filipino, you too will shed tears of pride.

4. It has never been done.

What makes this film so utterly unique is that the dialogue is alternately spoken and sung, so there are no clear lines between speaking and singing. It will strike you as odd at first, but then it will feel completely natural because the melodies fit the words like a glove.

A SOLO PERFORMANCE. Rachel Alejandro sings an aria as Paula. Photo courtesy of Culturtain Musicat Productions

The sound mixing is so good that the spoken and singing parts blend seamlessly. If anything, the melodies enhance the emotion of the dialogue.

We Filipinos are such a musical people that it makes perfect sense to me that one of the best ways we can tell a story is through song.

5. Paula and Paulo’s on-screen chemistry. Haha

 SEDUCTION. Sparks fly in this intimate moment between the characters Paula and Tony. Photo courtesy of Culturtain Musicat Productions

As mentioned earlier, I am Paula, and the Paulo I’m referring to is Paulo Avelino, who plays Tony Javier, the handsome boarder who further complicates the lives of the Marasigan sisters.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be the one saying this (the hubby may kill me), but there is a scene where the innocent Paula is seduced by the ravishing Tony and sparks fly all over the place.

I’d tell you it was difficult for me to look convincing; it took all my acting abilities to make that look real and truthful. But chances are, you’ve at least seen photos of Paulo and you’d call me a big, fat liar!

LA NAVAL. The very last La Naval procession of 1941 in Intramuros before World War 2 broke out is depicted in the film involving over 600 extras.

And there you have it, folks. Have I at least enticed you to check out Ang Larawan? Perhaps you’re one of those planning to sit out MMFF completely, just waiting for the Hollywood films to come back in January. Maybe reading this made you at least curious to come and watch a Tagalog film?

If you are planning to see Ang Larawan, all I ask is that you don’t delay. My fervent wish is that you catch us on Christmas Day. – Rappler.com

Rachel Alejandro is a singer-actress-entrepreneur. For more on Ang Larawan, visit www.anglarawan.com or Ang Larawan Movie on Facebook. Follow Rachel Alejandro on Facebook and @racheljalejandro on Instagram.