Her turn as Aunty Terry in Anthony Chen’s Cannes Camera d’Or winning Ilo Ilo, has placed Angeli Bayani in the watch list of many film buffs here and abroad. She’s been in local and foreign movies for a decade now, and has been working on her craft for much longer. She may not be a local household name now, but soon, with just the right exposure, there’s no doubt she will be.
She was having a kip in the bathtub, of all places, a few minutes before I met her, this petite morena void of the stereotypical trappings of a movie star. After a quick splash of water, she was ready, wearing nothing but a simple blouse and a simpler smile. Though small, there was nothing meek about her. Angeli Bayani commanded attention.
Ilo Ilo is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
Tell us about your role.
I’m playing Auntie Terry. She’s a Filipina maid hired to take care of Jiale, this little boy, by a family in Singapore.
Auntie Terry is based on a real person. Have you ever met her?
Yes. We first met at the gala in Singapore.
How did she react to your performance?
Sa totoo lang, of all people, kung meron man akong gustong i-please talaga, eh siya. Iniisip ko, sana magawa ko ng tama yung role. Nahiya akong tanungin, kasi she’s kind of a quiet person. Pero, eventually, nung nagkalakas-loob akong tanungin, ang sabi niya, “Okay naman… Tama naman.” Ganun lang ka-simple yung sinabi niya. Parang tuloy akong tanga na nag-alala buong araw.
How was it working with Anthony?
It was a learning experience. Masaya… Magulo… Oo, ganun. Sometimes talaga, hindi maiiwasan yung conflict. Pero looking back on that, it was all for the benefit of the story. It was all for the benefit of the film. Personally, even if I seem difficult, if it will work naman, if it will be for the benefit of the story or the film, bakit hindi ko siya gagawin, di ba?
Puwede namang magtanong ng maayos. Puwede namang mag-usap ng maayos. I think that’s my biggest takeaway working with him. I learned to do that in a way na hindi abrasive, but in a confident manner. Hindi puwede yung “Ummmm, direk, uhhh, ummm…” [She twirls her hair with her finger.] Hindi. As in, “This is what I think… This is what I feel…” At valid, and you don’t come across as being obnoxious or a smartass. I would like to think that I did it in a way as someone who can bring something to the table.
Ilo Ilo is not your first international production, so having experienced working on both foreign and local movies, how would you describe the difference?
Sa lahat ng ginawa kong international film… Yes, parang ang dami [Laughs] Pero yung pinaka-common sa kanila, yung malaking kaibahan is yung oras. Sinusunod nila yung twelve hours, as in. As in. Finished or not finished, pass your papers talaga.
After twelve hours, uwi na, pack up na. At ang sarap nun. Alam mo kung ano’ng naisip ko nun, lalo na nung first days ng filming? “Ay puwede pa akong manood ng ganun… Puwede pa akong magabasa ng ganyan…” Ang dami kong naisip gawin ng gabi pag-uwi ko. Pero ang nangyari, hindi ganun. Kasi kaya pala nila ginagawa yun, ang nangyari sa akin pag-uwi ko, babasahin ko ulit yung script. Babasahin ko lahat ng gagawin for tomorrow. Aaralin ko na naman siya. And you need that time alone. Para pagdating mo bukas ng 9 o’clock, handa ka.
Tayo lang ang hindi sumusunod doon. Kaya dito pag taping, i-aabot sayo yung script, linya, gawin mo na lang the best way you can. Pero puwede namang hindi ganun. At mas mabilis sana kung rerespetuhin natin yung twelve hours kasi lahat tayo uuwi, pag-aaralan yung gagawin the next day, mabilis na tomorrow. Less friction pa dahil nakatulog yung mga tao.
You’re playing an OFW. There’s a long list of actresses who’ve played that role. How is your take different from theirs?
I would like to think that I didn’t do it the stereotypical way. Alam mo yun? Feeling ko, hindi stereotype si Aunty Terry. This is, for me, one of the most real characters I’ve ever portrayed. And that made it equally hard for me kasi, like you said, it’s a long list. Aminado ako na ang dami ko nang nakitang ganitong klaseng portrayal. Pero with Anthony kasi, we both wanted Aunty Terry to come across as a real, fleshed-out character.
Kung maiyak ka man sa kanya, it’s not because yun yung intention namin, or matawa for that matter. And um, I’m not saying that the other people’s portrayals were not real. But defenitely, yung amin, wala kaming intention to make you feel anything. And I think that is what’s important kasi. It comes from a sincere objective to just portray the truth, to just portray a real person.
Read the interview with her director, Anthony Chen here.