Loida Malabanan is ready for her close up




Before watching Jeffrey Jeturian’s brilliant and heartbreaking movie, Ekstra, one should first take into account that the lead star is one of two of the most iconic actresses in Philippine cinema. Vilma Santos, of course, needs no further introduction. She is not only a widely-popular actress, she has also been very much honoured receiving countless of accolades throughout the decades. Her career, in fact, serves as a perfect contrast to the role she is playing, Loida, a humble ekstra. In this sense, I think it is important when viewing the film to consider Vilma, first as an iconic movie actress, and second as an actress playing a bit player. In my mind, at least, these two realities run parallel as the movie unfolds with Vilma’s iconic status serving as an ironic commentary on the life of Loida.

Of course Loida’s life cannot be more different from Vilma’s. She is a single parent who has to depend on a measly salary to be able to put food on the table and to be able to send her daughter to college. It’s a tough life but it is a life that Loida seems to be very proud of. She is first proud of the fact that she was able to raise her daughter on her own and second she is actually proud to be an ekstra. In fact, she rattles off superstars who began their careers as a bit player. She tells her fellow ekstras that without them there will be no film. A movie cannot exist with just the lead actors. In effect, she is saying that they are as important as the superstars who top-bills the movie. After all, as the line goes, there are no small parts only small actors.

However it is because of this hopeful disposition that makes Loida such as tragic figure because in the course of her day we see how bit players are really treated in reality. On the set, they have no allotted space, they are given measly meals and they have to endure extremities just for their desired close-ups. What makes it even worse is the fact that for the director, the producers and the whole staff the soap opera they are doing (a terribly written one at that) is more important than a bit player’s life. “Hindi kayang bayaran ng buhay mo ito” was the often heard line in the movie.  One can immediately see how the entertainment industry reduces Loida’s life --- her accomplishments as a single mom, her entire dignity as person--- to almost nothing. She is replaceable, bearing no value whatsoever.

In one of the finest scenes in the movie, Loida comes home with a bruised body and a packed-lunch. As she eats her breakfast, she looks around her simple home, her mind wandering, seemingly searching for her own prize for surviving not just a terribly difficult TV shoot but life in general. But what loudly reverberates across the room is her shock at having her dignity trampled on in front of an unforgiving moving camera. As if this wasn't enough, when she saw the final cut she was barely in the frame, left in the fringes of the television screen. 

Loida Malabanan is definitely not Vilma Santos.










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