A gift of love from Marilou Diaz-Abaya

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FELEO. Portrays a rebellious daughter in “Ikaw ang Pag-ibig.”

IN 2001, Laurice Guillen directed “Tanging Yaman,” in which a family torn apart by old sins and resentments are brought together when the grandmother (Gloria Romero) is taken ill and siblings must settle a land dispute.

Today, a decade later, Marilou Diaz-Abaya echoes similar sentiments in “Ikaw ang Pag-ibig,” where a dysfunctional family must face its own faults and betrayals when a family member, Fr. Johnny, suffers from acute leukemia. They find succor in their devotion to “Ina,” Our Lady of Peñafrancia, and from their goodness in spirit and capacity for love.

Marilou admits that Laurice’s late husband, Johnny Delgado, was an inspiration for her new movie, which was graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board.

We recall going to Marilou’s school in Antipolo for the launch of her book, “Moonlit Seasons,” in December 2009.

Difficult path

As we leaf through the book today, we realize why it took six years to complete: Marilou had chosen a difficult path to open up and discuss her pains, weaknesses, successes and sorrows.

She shares her love for Japan, the moon and the sea; she writes about friends, Rolando Tinio and Ishmael Bernal. She talks about the cancer that she’s learned to live with since 2007. “Love is like cancer,” she says. “You don’t find it – it finds you. When it does, it takes you hostage.”

“Ikaw ang Pag-ibig” took more than two years to complete, during which she experienced a remission, a relapse, and another remission, which she attributes to “Ina” herself. At the premiere, Marilou’s film had the audience identifying with its protagonists.

There’s the mother (Shamaine Centenera) whose pride has prevented her from forgiving her husband (Noni Buencamino), who left her for another woman; their gynecologist son-in-law, Jomari Yllana, whose steadfast dedication to his patients could only be matched by his love for their immature and ambitious daughter; their priest-son, Marvin Agustin, whose obligation to his parishioners will always be more important than his health and well-being, and their rebellious daughter, Ina Feleo, whose thwarted values prevent her from discovering the real meaning of love.

Marilou posted on Facebook: “If I were asked to make only one film in my lifetime, I would choose ‘Ikaw ang Pag-ibig’!”

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