Joel Lamangan’s “Lihis,” one of the films to be shown at the Sineng Pambansa All-Masters Series (Sept. 11-17 in all SM Cinemas), is about love in time of war. As gay rebels Jake Cuenca (Cesar) and Joem Bascon (Dominador) struggle against oppression, they find comfort in each other’s arms. Don’t dismiss it as an off-shoot of “My Husband’s Lover.” It scratches beneath the surface to find secrets that the hearts of gays have never told. It’s brave and tender in equal parts. “Lihis” explores the road less traveled and shows that it’s the destination that makes the downtrodden’s journey worthwhile.
How did you prepare for your gay role?
I’ve had some projects before where I also portrayed a gay man but this is the boldest and most daring. All I did was trust my director and get into character.
How did Joem Bascon and you manage to feel comfy doing your love scenes?
It helped that that Joem and I are good friends. We’re both from Star Magic. We just discussed our roles and how to attack them. Naturally, I felt some discomfort when we were given instructions by Direk Joel but when the camera rolled, I just gave it my all.
What did the film teach you about gays?
It’s not just about a gay relationship. The film is also about struggle in all forms—not just gender but social and political struggles as well, which we all encounter till now.
How do you handle gay fans, who are too forward?
I respect them. As long as they don’t offend me then I’m cool with that.
Why is “Lihis” a must-see?
People should watch our film because it’s about relationships and struggles in a different perspective. Plus, there are some scenes, which Joem and I did here that I think I can no longer do or will take a long time before I do it again.
How did you make Jake and Joem comfortable during their love scenes?
Well, I talked to them to explain the scenes and characters. I told them how I planned to do their love scenes and both of them agreed to do it. From the very beginning, they knew that they are both gays in the movie. But this is a different gay story because this is about people who are being erased in history because of their political belief [and] their gender or behavior which might be contradictory to the existing norms of society.
How did “Lihis” come about?
Ricky Lee and I had always wanted to make a story on people’s plight and struggle against the accepted behavior of an oppressive society. We wanted to show stories of people not being mentioned in history because they behaved and believed differently. Such is the case of Jake and Joem in the story.
What are your do’s and don’ts on the set?
I hate people coming late on the set. I hate artists making people wait for hours and hours. They do not have the right to make people wait just because they are actors.
What is your advice to aspiring film makers?
Make films not just for the International audience and for the Festival audience but for the Filipino people.
What would you like to change or improve in the industry?
Attitude towards work. Working hours should be human in the sense that nobody should be allowed to work for 24 hours or 48 hours without any sleep and be paid only [for work done in] a day or two days.
Why must we watch “Lihis”?
Because “Lihis” is a story of people who did not have any voice before, [those] who were long forgotten. It is now time for them to be known by the very people to whom they dedicated their lives in pursuit of democracy. This is a story that has never been told.