Bikay’s Call

This village lass has had two big movies. She has also won five acting awards. Yet she still goes to the seashore – to peddle seashells.

By Terence Krishna Lopez

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol – This village lass has had two big movies. She has also won five acting awards. Yet she still goes to the seashore – to sell seashells.

The girl is Rebecca Lusterio, the 15-year old Boholana who wowed viewers with her role in the Visayan movie Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River). In the recent 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), she grabbed the Best Supporting Actress Award over veteran screen actors Jacklyn Jose, Angelu de Leon and Caridad Sanchez.

Unknown to many, this shy high school junior from Panglao, Bohol is the same girl who won five Best Child Performer awards five years ago. For portraying a nine-year-old girl who pretended to be a boy in the 1999 hit Muro-ami, she won in MMFF, received two more Star Awards and a FAMAS.

The day I met Rebecca in Panglao for this Bulatlat interview last week was oddly reminiscent of the movie Panaghoy. It was 12 noon, the sun bowed to the rain and the wind blew cold as I waited for her in the parish priest’s office in San Agustin Church. In an instant the sun shone again and the rain stopped when Rebecca entered the room flashing a sweet yet shy smile. Unlike other young movie actors, she showed no trace of arrogance or star complex.

Rebecca or Bikay (like her character’s name in the movie) said she’s happier with her winning an MMFF award now than five years ago. “In Muro-ami, I couldn’t understand why one should be happy with an awards trophy. Now, I can appreciate it better,” she said.

However, the award did not change her lifestyle, she said. Even if she now finds herself signing autographs occasionally, she still wants to stay where she is. “I still sell seashell souvenirs with my mother, nothing has changed with the way I am,” she said without hesitation. Rebecca’s father is a boatman – one who tours people to the river and sea by boat.

Getting into the character

In Panaghoy, Bikay is one of the most moving characters – as the brave and obedient younger sister of Duroy (Cesar Montano) who closes the film with poetry. For an actor who never had any formal acting workshop, Bikay delivered a powerful performance, not allowing herself to be overshadowed in any scene by the more experienced ones like Daria Ramirez and Montano, who also directed the film.

“I just got into the character and felt the story as it was real life and not just a movie” she said when asked about how she was able to deliver a fine performance. Her Bikay was also one of the key characters in the story. Even just her cry of “Nanay!” (mother) surely will haunt everyone in the audience. It helped a lot also that the medium used throughout the film was Visayan.

Is Bikay the movie character like the real Bikay? She giggled: “Yes, I am brave at a certain level, we all have to be one.” As for being obedient, she just smiled and bowed her head and said “I don’t know, maybe.”

Favorite character

Bikay’s favorite character in the movie aside from Duroy was Nanay (Daria Ramirez) because she showed a great deal of hope and determination. This hope was expressed in her favorite scene, where Nanay insisted that their Tatay will come back, even calling him beautiful to which Bikay answered, “You’re the one who is beautiful Nanay, Tatay is not beautiful, he left us.” Bikay admires Nanay’s display of hope and determination to put the family together despite their poverty and despite being abandoned by the father.

She also likes the character played by Ronnie Lazaro, a village idiot. “I like it because it was very divine and symbolic, someone who’ve seen everything unfold in front of him.”

The call of the river

In the movie, Bikay had the last and perhaps even the most unforgettable lines as she compared Duroy to the river as an epilogue.

In the epilogue, Bikay recited a line that went something like “When it calls, we should be ready to respond to the call of the river,” with Duroy rowing his boat in the river as a backdrop.

Explaining, Rebecca said “It’s about the trials we encounter in our lives, that we should always be prepared to face them.”

Before parting, I asked her to describe herself in a word or two. Bikay giggled, almost reluctant to say anything. Instead of the typical and standard adjectives, she just said “like this” with a giggle.

“Just like this” it could have meant “what you see is what you get.”

Bikay also says she’s always ready to heed the call of the river. However, if the panaghoy is entering showbiz, she will have to delay the response. She wants to finish her studies first and earn a mass communications degree.

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