MANILA, Philippines—Two Filipino actresses quite literally stopped the show at the 6th Asian Film Awards (AFA), considered the region’s Oscars, held Monday night at the Grand Theater of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center.
Comedian Eugene Domingo won the people’s choice favorite actress award for her role in Marlon Rivera’s “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” and theater stalwart Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino was named best supporting actress, for Loy Arcenas’ “Niño.”
For Domingo, however, the bigger prize seemed to be a kiss from people’s choice favorite actor winner, Cantopop superstar Andy Lau, who won for Ann Hui’s “A Simple Life.”
When she went up the stage to accept her trophy, Domingo handed her iPhone to the presenter, awards chair Wilfred Wong, so he could take her picture with Lau. She then told Lau, “Andy, you must kiss me. I waited 25 years for this.”
“Host Janet Hiseh said it was amazing that Uge (Domingo’s nickname) didn’t faint when she got that kiss,” recounted filmmaker Chris Martinez, who was there as a nominee for best screenplay, also for his work in “Septic.”
“His kiss felt hard and funny,” Domingo told the Inquirer via e-mail on Tuesday. “Andy is playful, a good sport and very charming. I adore his spirit.”
Declared best picture was Iran’s “A Separation” (which won the best foreign language film Oscar last month). The movie also won the best director and best screenplay trophies for Asghar Farhadi.
The Asian Film Awards are handed out by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society.
The last time the Philippines scored at the AFA was in 2009, when Gina Pareño won best supporting actress for her work in Brillante Mendoza’s “Serbis.”
Domingo confessed that the special award, decided by online voting, caught her by surprise. “I was backstage, waiting for my turn to present the best supporting actor award and wasn’t really paying attention. Then I heard the staff calling out my name.”
It was an “unforgettable moment” for Domingo, who dedicated the award to her alma mater, the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where she took up theater arts. “I want to honor other Filipino artists [with this award],” she said.
“It was a long and well-applauded speech,” reported “Septic” producer Joji Alonso.
Domingo capped it with with another quip that “brought the house down,” according to filmmaker Senedy Que. She turned to Lau and casually said, “Andy, let’s do a movie together.”
In her e-mail, Domingo bragged, “Andy said yes, of course.”
Buencamino’s acceptance speech was “moving,” Que related. “Shamaine’s husband (actor) Nonie Buencamino was close to tears in his seat as she dedicated the triumph to him and their four children, to Cinemalaya and the Philippines.”
It was Buencamino’s first time in Hong Kong, and she almost didn’t make it. She told the Inquirer a few months ago that she would be unemployed at the start of 2012 and might not be able to afford the trip.
“I only travel for work,” she had said, explaining that holidays were a luxury for her.
In an e-mail after the ceremony, Buencamino told the Inquirer: “When the movie trailers of the other nominees were shown, I told Nonie, ‘I don’t think I’ll win.’ He [replied], ‘You are already a winner, being here.’”
When her name was called out as winner, she wept. “I kissed my husband and walked to the stage. It was while I was walking that my emotions took over,” she said.
“God gave me this talent, but I sacrificed my acting career to help raise my family. I felt I was being rewarded for [setting] my priorities. I had to explain onstage [why I was crying].”
She considers herself a newcomer in the movies, she pointed out in the e-mail. “I’ve done only a few films and … this honor is overwhelming. I hope this leads to more jobs … at least now people will hopefully know who I am.”
Buencamino, who was a teacher at UP Diliman at the time Domingo was a student, hoped their double victory would lead to a greater respect for theater actors among movie fans.
“These [prove] that theater-trained actors can cross over to film and television. Training in acting is essential to an effective performance,” Buencamino stressed.
She explained why she dedicated her award to the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which was recently rocked by controversy.
“Septic” and “Niño” were products of last year’s Cinemalaya. Both Domingo and Buencamino won acting awards in that edition of the festival.
Star system bucked
“Cinemalaya shouldn’t stop making films. It helped Filipino films get noticed all over the world,” Buencamino said.
She noted that, in the past, it was difficult for theater actors to go against the star system and land meaty movie roles. “Indie films allowed us to play challenging roles and now we get recognized for our talent,” she said.
Domingo admitted that she was prepared to go home empty-handed. “But I wanted to win, too. This recognition will make our Asian neighbors more aware of Filipino artists. I am very thankful.”