“I cannot say it was easy but I also cannot say it was very hard,” was Candy Pangilinan’s response when asked about the difficulty of working on the film “Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone.”
“Sabihin na natin that the primary preparation for this film is to bond with the kids kasi hindi magwo-work kung wala kaming bond ng mga bata. Siguro with the family also,” she said in an interview during the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino press conference.
In the film, Candy Pangilinan plays the mother of two children, one of which is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Her performance won her the Best Actress award twice, in last year’s Cine Filipino Film Festival and in the Los Angeles Philippine International Film Festival.
Candy herself is a mother of a differently abled child in real life, and inevitably brought her wealth of experience as a mother into her character. Even if she could relate to her character on many levels, starring in the film still proved to be an extraordinary experience for the 45-year-old comedienne.
“Siguro I can relate kasi I have a kid with a disability also. Iba siya. It’s very interesting. Interesting na nga yung nagtra-trabaho ka sa pelikula at gumagawa ka ng pelikula, pero mas interesting na sila ang katrabaho mo kasi hindi mo alam kung anong gagawin nila and kung hanggang saan ang magagawa nila,” Candy said.
Candy absolutely had no second thoughts on accepting the project. She initially expected the film to be a barrel of laughs, but soon realized it was more than that. She explains, “When the role was first offered to me, ang unang sinabi sa akin, ‘light ho ito, parang comedy. Nung nandun na ako, parang hindi naman. Parang iba na.”
There were instances on the set when it became too emotional for the cast and crew. In one particular scene wherein Van Damme Stallone was learning how to button his top, it was discovered that the actor himself, Paolo Pingol, was actually learning to do it for the first time. Filming that scene took 18 minutes, and everyone on the set was in tears after.
Candy recalls shooting this scene vividly. “Pinapa-cut na ni Direk pero sabi ko, ‘no Direk, i-derecho natin. Because I know what they can do, I know what they can achieve. ‘Hindi, hindi, cut na natin yan. Cut na,’ sabi niya. Sabi ko, ‘hindi, tuloy natin.’”
While the film was more dramatic than Candy expected, filming wasn’t nearly as challenging as raising a differently abled child in real life. She talked about the hurdles she has gone through as a parent during the media interview.
“Yung challenges ko, Unang-una po ay yung sa speech. Hindi nakakapagsalita yung anak ko nung una, hindi rin nakakalakad. So isa po yun sa mga kailangan naming harapin, na tulungan siya na makapagsalita at makapaglakad. The therapy, na araw-araw. Sabi ko nga parang nagma-masters yung anak ko. Para sa one-year-old, mas marami pa po siyang ginagawa kesa sa akin.”
“Other than that, actually ay yung perception ng tao sa akin. Pag nagwawala yung bata. Kasi ang pinaka-importante sa bata, ay you have to be very consistent. Kung ano po ang ginagawa sa therapy, ginagawa rin sa bahay o sa labas.”
“I think normal sa mga parents yung hinahanapan mo kung anong pagkakamali mo at nagkaganun yung anak mo. So sinisisi mo yung pagbubuntis mo, ano bang ginawa mong mali. I think yun, yung acceptance na i-embrace ko na lang.”
“Parati kong tinatanong tuwing pupunta akong doctor, ano bang, kanino ba nagmana, sa akin ba? Genes ba ito? Ano ba ito? Ano po bang nangyari, bakit nagkaganito? Yung naghahanap tayo ng root cause. Isa yun sa challenges na kailangan nating pagdaanan.”
Candy takes her challenges as a parent in stride, but admits that she is affected by the way society treats children with special conditions. Differently abled children are still looked down on, and even bullied. The stigma that they are lesser beings, remains.
This is the stigma that “Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone” hopes to eliminate. The film not only aims to raise Down syndrome awareness, it also hopes to impart valuable lessons on family life and delivers a simple yet beautiful message, which Candy herself shared.
“Ang pagmamahal lang talaga will heal everything—and will make it through,” she said.