Venice was a whirl of photo shoots, interviews and red-carpet excitement for the three Filipino actresses—Nora Aunor, Lovi Poe and Mercedes Cabral—who accompanied director Brillante Mendoza for the recent premiere of their film, “Thy Womb,” at the world’s oldest film festival.
“Surreal” was how Cabral described the experience. “It was as if I was dreaming. I couldn’t believe I was walking on the red carpet in Venice.” Poe recalled being “nervous.”
The Filipinos felt especially proud seeing the Filipino flag fluttering in the wind as they walked to the cinema, where the movie was to be screened, related Boy Palma, Aunor’s manager.
Since they couldn’t travel with a team of stylists, Aunor and Cabral had done their own hair and makeup for the event. “I tried my best to look glamorous,” Aunor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
As luck would have it, Poe’s makeup artist, Paolo Maranan, and hair stylist, John Valle, were touring Europe at the time. “I asked if they could pass by Venice to help me get dolled up,” the young star said.
Pressed for time
Poe donned a black gown (by Cary Santiago) for the red carpet at the premiere. Cabral wore Cebu-based designer Harvey Cenit’s sexy cream gown.
“For the awards ceremony on September 8,” said Cabral, “I wore Mitch Desunia’s black gown.” At the awards show, the Filipinos didn’t get to march down the red carpet because they had been pressed for time. Aunor was escorted by friend John Rendez.
In spite of the hectic pace, Poe found the five-day whirlwind Venice trip “exciting.”
The actresses got to sample various restaurants in the city as guests of producer Melvin Mangada and Philippine Ambassador to Italy Virgilio Reyes Jr., who flew in from Rome.
“We got to extend our stay by only a day,” Aunor said.
Though she didn’t get to ride a gondola, Aunor made sure to pose for a snapshot by the world-famous Grand Canal—playfully emoting like she did in a dramatic scene from the movie shot in Tawi-Tawi.
“Acting lang,” Aunor quipped, giggling.
Cabral and Poe squeezed in a quick tour of the old city.
On her own, Poe went shopping and museum-hopping. After a tiring day playing with pigeons at San Marco Piazza, she had coffee at Florian Cafe. “I was very proud of myself, having explored the city on my own,” she said.
“I am thankful to Direk Brillante for taking me to Venice,” said Cabral. “I got to go around…it’s really one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
On her last night in the city, Cabral met with Europe-based actress Bianca Zialcita (daughter of actress Evelyn Vargas) and some other friends. They had wine and pizza for dinner.
Cabral recalled: “We had a picnic in the middle of San Marco Piazza. Then we tried to ride the gondolas for a few snapshots, making sure we wouldn’t be spotted by the polizia because it was already late and riding the boats was no longer allowed. It was one of the best nights of my life.”
“It was an honor to travel with Nora and spend time with her,” Poe said. “I’ve heard so many stories about her and I am just glad to get this rare chance.”
Cabral added: “For me, it’s a big deal that I was able to join the superstar (as Aunor is called by fans) in representing our country. Tita Nora is down-to-earth. Lovi is sweet, too. Everyone was fun to travel with.”
Being a stranger in a foreign country could be “lonesome,” Poe admitted, but “Filipino camaraderie made the trip enjoyable and memorable.”
Next stop for “Thy Womb” are the Goa (India) and Dubai fests, said Mendoza. “Thy Womb” and another Mendoza film, “Captive,” are nominees at the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards to be held in Brisbane, Australia, in November.