It has been a tradition of sorts for a Filipino movie about mothers to be released in time for Mother’s Day – thanks to Regal Films and its matriarch “Mother Lily” Monteverde. From “Oh My Mama” to this year’s “The Mommy Returns,” these films range from tearjerkers to comedy.
While so-called “mother roles” these days usually refer to supporting characters in movies starring young box-office stars, there have been plum mother roles played by the country’s best actresses that have earned their place in the history of Philippine cinema.
Here are 10 Pinoy movie moms – not necessarily the best written or the best acted – that have left a deep impression on moviegoers.
1. Mariel in “Madrasta” played by Sharon Cuneta
While stepmothers have been portrayed mostly as evil contrabidas in many Filipino films, Sharon Cuneta portrays a loving and nurturing stepmom in this 1996 movie directed by Olivia Lamasan for Star Cinema, which earned a Best Actress grand slam for the actress. In the movie, Cuneta plays Mariel, who marries Edward (Christopher de Leon) after his first wife abandons him. But even as Mariel struggles to be accepted by her stepchildren (Claudine Barretto, Patrick Garcia and Camille Prats), they still treat her like an outsider. Frustrated, Mariel utters the film’s most memorable line: “Asawa mo lang ako, I was never your partner, I’m just your wife, kaya hindi mo ako ni-rerespeto.”
If you like this, you might also like: Boots Anson-Roa and later Regine Velasquez in “Wanted: Perfect Mother”
2. Auring in “Miguelito Batang Rebelde” played by Nida Blanca
This 1985 Lino Brocka movie was supposed to be an acting showcase for then-teen idol Aga Muhlach in the title role but it was Nida Blanca who wowed critics and movie audiences as Auring, Miguelito’s real mother who was framed by the town mayor (and the boy’s father) and imprisoned for 15 years. When she is released from jail, a determined Auring seeks not only justice but to get reunited with her son. The scene where she finally meets her long lost son is heartbreaking, proving that Blanca, long cast in light, comic roles, is actually even more effective as a dramatic actress.
If you like this, you’d also like: Sharon Cuneta in “Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Story”
3. Lea Bustamante in “Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?” played by Vilma Santos
Lualhati Bautista’s Palanca Award-winning novel has given Philippine cinema a refreshingly different kind of mother, one who is fiercely independent and thoroughly modern, one who has the guts to ask, “Sister nain-love ka na ba? Hindi yong love kay Kristo ha, ‘yong love na may sex!” Lea, a women’s rights activist who works at a crisis center, is a single mom raising Ogie (Carlo Aquino) and Maya (Serena Delrymple), her kids from two different fathers (Ariel Rivera and Albert Martinez). But when the men express their desire to get back their kids, Lea begins to question just what is a woman’s worth. Santos and director Chito S. Roño won numerous awards for this 1998 film, including from international film festivals.
If you like this, you might also like: Zsa Zsa Padilla in “Batang PX”
4. Norma in “Inang Yaya” played by Maricel Soriano
This 2006 drama from directors Pablo Biglang-awa and Veronica Velasco tackle the “yaya” as mother. Soriano shines as a nanny who loves her ward, the 7-year-old Louise (Ericka Oreta). And for once, here we have a house helper who isn’t maltreated by her employers. But when her own mother dies, Norma is forced to take her daughter Ruby (Tala Santos) with her. And just when mother and daughter make up for lost time, Norma is faced with a dilemma: whether to go with her employers and Louise who are moving to Singapore or stay with her own daughter. This simple film doesn’t over-achieve in making a statement – just a loving tribute that anyone who had a loving yaya growing up could surely relate with.
If you like this, you might also like: Vilma Santos in “Anak” and Pokwang in “A Mother’s Story”
5. Tonya in “Insiang” played by Mona Lisa
Although Hilda Koronel, in the title role, is the star in Lino Brocka’s 1976 film classic – the first Filipino film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival – just as unforgettable is Mona Lisa’s performance as Insiang’s monster mom. First, Tonya evicts their poor relatives and have her brute lover Dado (Ruel Vernal) move in with them. Then she turns a blind eye after Dado rapes her own daughter. But Tonya isn’t just stereotyped evil – she is just as bitter and desperate when her husband abandons them amid the squalor of Marcos-era Tondo.
If you like this, you might also like: Lolita Rodriguez in “Ina Ka ng Anak Mo”
6. Estella in “Abakada… Ina” played by Lorna Tolentino
Are maternal skills learned? That’s the question posed by actor Eddie Garcia who made his directorial comeback with this domestic drama, which won several acting awards for Lorna Tolentino. The conflict between Estella and her mother-in-law Miling (Alicia Alonzo) isn’t entirely new. The added dimension here is that Estella is illiterate, dismissed by Miling as useless and dumb. Miling manages to even turn Estella’s own children against her, pushing a determined Estella to teach herself and fight for her own family.
If you like this, you might also like: Nora Aunor in “Anak ng Atsay”
7. Thelma in “Foster Child” played by Cherry Pie Picache
Director Brillante Mendoza gave Cherry Pie Picache a career-high – the film was shown at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes – when she cast her as a poor woman who takes care of an abandoned baby while waiting to be given to a prospective foster family. What the film does brilliantly is show the slums as capable of becoming a nurturing environment, as Estella’s family – her blue-collar husband and two kids – provide the little boy with the affection he needs. Picache has been widely praised for her naturalistic performance but it’s her character’s humanity that truly touches.
If you like this, you might also like: Nida Blanca in “Saan Darating ang Umaga”
8. Loleng in “Tanging Yaman” played by Gloria Romero
Catholicism naturally plays a key role in many Filipino movies. Still Gloria Romero’s Loleng in Laurice Guillen’s “Tanging Yaman” manages to stand out. Siblings Danny (Johnny Delgado), Art (Edu Manzano) and Grace (Dina Bonnevie) are forced to reunite after their mother Loleng succumbs to a debilitating disease as they try to settle a land dispute. It is Loleng’s strong faith that keeps the family from crumbling, as she seeks God’s help to use her to keep the family from falling apart. The religious parallelisms are obvious – but touching nonetheless – as maternal love becomes intertwined with Marian devotion.
If you like this, you might also like: Charito Solis in “Minsa’y May Isang Ina”
9. Ina Montecillo in “Ang Tanging Ina” played by Ai-Ai delas Alas
Before striking a box-office gold mine that launched several sequels and even a TV show, the premise of the 2003 original was actually interesting. With three dead husbands and 12 children to take care of, what is the modern-day working mother supposed to do? For Ina, as played by comedienne Ai-Ai delas Alas, that means trying her hand as a construction worker, a seller of pirated DVDs and even a stripper. The plot is ripe for delas Alas’s brand of comedy but beneath the fantastic series of events is a story of a mother trying her best to make her children happy.
If you like this, you might also like: Cherry Pie Picache in “Manay Po”
10. Andrea in “Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina?” played by Nora Aunor
Nora Aunor has had many memorable mother roles from comics material like “Bakekang” to the acclaimed “Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.” But her role in this 1990 Gil Portes isn’t just about motherhood but about the motherland. As a member of the New People’s Army, Andrea was forced to give up her son when she was caught by the military and tortured and then went into hiding. But while she continues her fight against oppression, she also yearns to be reunited with her son someday.
If you like this, you might also like: Alessandra di Rossi in “Ka Oryang”
BONUS: Coring in “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay” played by Dolphy
Released in 1978, “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay” is directed by award-winner Lino Brocka and written by Orlando Nadres. Critics have hailed it as
“one of the best gay-themed films ever made.” Coring is a cross-dressing gay man who is forced to raise Nonoy (played by Nino Muhlach) after the child was abandoned by his father to join the U.S. Navy. At first he tries to hide his sexuality from the boy, who later discovers Coring in drag. Coring eventually agrees to give Nonoy back to his real mother but soon realizes his mistake -- during a gay beauty pageant, no less.