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‘Magtanggol’ wows at UP Film Center

(from left) Ricky Davao, Dina Bonnevie, Giselle Sanchez,  Jojo Dispo (producer) and Susan Dispo

(from left) Ricky Davao, Dina Bonnevie, Giselle Sanchez,
Jojo Dispo (producer) and Susan Dispo

Film critics, students and moviegoers applauded director Sigfreid Barros Sanchez upon screening of his political-suspense thriller “Magtanggol” at the UP Film Center last Friday.

In his keynote address, Sanchez dedicated the movie to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

“I believe the film is relevant to present times because everyone has an OFW relative. This is the story of the Filipino worker. This is the story of the Filipino family. This is your story,” he said.

Senator Juancho Magtanggol (played by Tom Rodriguez) is known as the “hero of the OFWs.” He often handles the difficult cases of OFWs who suffer in the hands of abusive employers. Juancho and his paraplegic brother Anton (EJ Falcon) even travel abroad for this end. But one day, the senator himself is tagged as principal suspect in the murder of a top chinese investor, also an abusive employer.

I play Lilia Zaballero in “Magtanggol” and one time, I asked the producer, Jojo Dispo, how he came up with the compelling screenplay.

Jojo said: “When I was still an investment banker, I created a financial product called OFWs Bonds for the Department of Finance (DOF) to encourage savings and investments by OFWs. The officials of DOF and I traveled around the world – to Middle East, US, UK, Europe and Asia – to introduce this instrument. In my travels, I got upclose and personal with these OFWS and saw their difficulties and hardships…

“I wrote and produced this film to raise awareness on the plight of our OFWs, wake up our government, and encourage Filipinos to show our care for, and to love and support our OFWs. This film is a collective story of the OFWs. It is a tribute to their heroism.”

I asked the producer to cite his favorite line from “Magtanggol.”

“‘Kayong mga Magtanggol ang mga bayani ng ating mga bagong bayani. Ang lahat ng Magtanggol ay Pilipino, ang lahat ng Pilipino ay Magtanggol’” Jojo quoted, adding, “This film is a call to action to all Filipinos – we can be heroes for our unsung heroes, the OFWs.”

The film has a “secret” character who exacts justice from the abusive employers of the OFWS. Did Jojo have stories about this newly elected high ranking official in mind when he wrote the screenplay?

“I wrote ‘Magtanggol’ two years ago and we started filming using my own money even before any of the candidates announced they were running,” Jojo said. “His (the high ranking official) passion for change is so much the same as the passion of the Magtanggols. But my inspiration is the OFWs.”

“Magtanggol” will be shown at Rockwell Theater from Aug. 24 to 30 in time for National Heroes week.