Desperately seeking Maureen Mauricio
A Filipino critic based in the United States is looking for the short documentary, “Screen Name: Maureen Mauricio,” starring 1980s sexy nymphet Maureen Mauricio and directed by three students from the Communication Arts department of De La Salle University.
Made over two decades ago, the short film is being considered for the Facine Film Festival in San Francisco this November.
If all goes well, Mauricio should be flying to the United States to attend the festival.
Although she had her start in show business as a sexy star, Mauricio was no stranger to art films at the time.
Before his death in a 1991 car crash, National Artist (1997) for Film Lino Brocka had planned to groom Mauricio as a full-fledged dramatic actress.
Mauricio appeared in Brocka’s “Gumapang Ka sa Lusak” in 1990 and was set to be relaunched in his Palawan film, “Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat Ko” in 1991. In a way, she might be considered the last Brocka baby.
“Two days before my departure for Palawan, Direk Lino passed away,” she recalled.
Another Brocka baby, co-actor Christopher de Leon, was tapped to take over “Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat Ko” as director.
Mauricio is “forever grateful” that Brocka pulled her out of the bold scene.
Tips from a master
“He told me that I knew how to act … that I didn’t have to bare my body to get noticed,” she related.
First time Brocka and Mauricio worked together was in a TV show, “Anak” on PTV4, with character actress Alicia Alonzo.
“I was told that Direk Lino had asked for me. I had no idea why,” she recounted. “Even if it was a small role, if it was Brocka who called, you went running; no questions asked.”
She picked up lots of pointers from Brocka. “He taught me how to ‘act’ with my eyes. He told me that, even without dialogue, I should be able to express emotions. He encouraged me and assured me that I could make it big in show biz,” she related.
Brocka was generous with both praise and counsel. “He told me not to waste my time, to study my script between takes. He said I should not dab Vicks vapor rub on my eyes, to make myself cry.”
He was a second father to her. “He was gentle. He never shouted at us on the set. Others were scared because he was a famous director, but he never made me feel ill at ease,” Mauricio reminisced.
Brocka took her under his wing, she learned, because he had heard of her traumatic debut in the biz.
It was a baptism of fire in many ways.
As a kid growing up in Olongapo, Mauricio always dreamt of becoming a Regal Baby and acting alongside her idols on the silver screen. The child of a Filipina and an American serviceman, she was quite tall for her age.
In 1983, an acquaintance convinced her to try her luck in Manila to join a search for teen stars. “My mom was strict and wouldn’t approve. So I didn’t tell her of my plan to audition. She found out when I was already in Manila.”
Naïve girl that she was, she blindly took the plunge. “When I arrived on the set, the director told me to take off my clothes. I was shocked.”
What was more shocking was the fact that she wasn’t just underage; she was a child! “I was only 12 years old,” she admitted. “I didn’t know anything about show business. I just wanted to be a movie star.”
The film’s title should have clued her in. “It was called ‘Climax.’ The times were very different then … people were not as strict [as they are now].”
Now she knows that her discoverer could have landed in jail for pushing her to disrobe at such a tender age. “(Fellow character actress) Sylvia Sanchez said I should have sued my old manager. But I cut ties with him after just seven months. I guess he let go of me because he realized his mistake.”
After a string of forgettable flesh flicks like “Hayok” and “Hapdi,” Mauricio met Brocka, who apparently had so much faith in her, that he reinvented her from sultry starlet to serious actress.
“Direk Lino came into my life at the right time. Bold films were getting more and more daring. I got out in the nick of time,” she said.
Thus, she was spared the so-called “pene” (short for penetration) craze or the soft porn trade of the 1990s—unlike most of her less lucky contemporaries.
“Direk Lino told me to respect myself, to take care of myself,” she recalled. His death left a void in her life. “It was painful. He was so good to me.”
De Leon, who took over as director of “Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat Ko,” was helpful during that tough time. “He was okay. I have nothing but good words for him,” she said.
Since she practically bore Brocka’s stamp of approval, she was soon hired by the late director’s colleagues—Mel Chionglo (“Sibak: Midnight Dancers” in 1994), Gil Portes (“Mulanay,” 1996), Chito Roño (“Curacha ang Babaeng Walang Pahinga,” 1998) and Joel Lamangan (“Abandonada” and “Deathrow,” 2000).
She had a ball on the set of “Sibak.”
“I enjoyed chatting with RS Francisco between takes. I played a woman whose husband had a gay lover,” she said. “Direk Mel was very relaxed on the set.”
Chionglo recounted, “I hired her because Lino said he was so inspired by her. She possessed natural intensity, but was easy to work with. She was able to understand her character quickly.”
“She’s a good actress with lots of potential,” said talent manager Ed Instrella, who line-produced “Sibak.” “Given the right push and opportunities to shine, she could be in the league of the country’s finest actresses.”
Camera loves her
Lamangan agreed: “She was one of Brocka’s favorites. She’s a good thespian and the camera loves her.”
Portes remembered: “We worked on numerous projects, but the most memorable was ‘Mulanay.’ She had only one day of shoot, but her performance was so powerful that she was nominated for best supporting actress. She was cooperative and supportive of our indie movie, in spite of the shoestring budget.”
Mauricio considers herself fortunate that she has worked only with consummate professionals to this day. “They are some of the best filmmakers in the industry. Of course, it’s only natural to get nervous, but you just have to be prepared. You just have to focus on work.”
In 2006, she was cast in Roño’s “Sukob.” She said, “Direk Chito asked the staff to look for me. It feels good when you hear that a director handpicked you for a role.”
She described her stint in show biz as “on-and-off.”
Between movie and TV projects, she raised three daughters. “I was a hands-on mom when my kids were growing up,” she admitted. “I didn’t want them to end up like me so I guarded them like a hawk.”
Her eldest is a nursing graduate; her second child is taking up culinary arts; and her youngest is in fifth grade.
Almost three years ago, her mother passed away after a lingering battle with diabetes. “She spent 52 days in the intensive care unit (ICU),” Maureen related. “She was only 67.”
It was a trying time. The sleepless days and nights in the hospital were grueling. On the bright side, she shed the weight gained from three pregnancies. (She once tipped the scales at over 200 pounds.)
Now trim and fit, Mauricio hopes to return to the biz full time.
She previously acted in the GMA 7 series “Blusang Itim” (2011) and “My Beloved” (2012). She also came out in the ABS-CBN drama anthology “Maalaala Mo Kaya.”
“When I was heavier, I was typecast as a market vendor. I was always in a duster,” she quipped. Now, she can play glamorous characters for a change of pace.
“But I prefer to play poor, ordinary women. It’s tiring to get dolled up and walk around in heels the whole day,” she remarked.
She is aware that character actors are sometimes not treated well on the set. “Sometimes there is not enough food for everyone. That’s why I make it a point to bring my own food.”
Worse, some production companies scrimp and haggle for lower rates. A huge bulk of her salary goes to taxes and to buy fuel for the car, she clarified. “Studios are assured of quality when they hire professional actors.”
Last year, Mauricio received a tempting offer to play a pivotal part in the Cinemalaya film, “Intoy Syokoy sa Kalye Marino.”
“I wanted to do it, but the part called for a bed scene. I had to decline. My kids are already grown-up,” she said.
She has learned to say no.