WE WERE invited to the special screening at Crossroads of Dr. Carl Balita’s loving tribute to teachers, “Maestra”, and there were about 3,000 teachers who watched it with selected members of the press. They’re obviously very pleased with the movie because they were screaming cheers of approval for many scenes all throughout the screening.
Since this is an advocacy film made primarily to pay homage to teachers, it’s perfectly understandable that it portrays teachers as selfless heroines who sacrifice a lot of things in the practice of their chosen profession. The film introduces us to three different teachers and it starts with a young education student, Aya (Anna Luna), who is discouraged by her own dad (William Martinez) in her desire to be a teacher as it’s a low paying job.
But Aya won't be swayed as she is so driven and dedicated in her ambition to help impart knowledge to young minds. She gets to finish her course, then we see her going to Dr. Carl Balita’s review center to prepare for the board licensure exams for teachers. It is there that she meets Gennie (Angeli Bayani), an Aeta assistant teacher who has taken the board exams several times but always fails it. Aya then helps her to review her and they become closer to one another, with Gennie taking Aya to the school for Aeta kids where she works up in the mountains.
In the review school, Aya also meets Prof. Esperanza “Espie” Bautista (Gloria Sevilla), who’s already 84 years old but continues to teach. Her daughter, Suzette Ranillo, is convincing her to retire and just join her and her family in Pangasinan but she rejects the idea. She says that even if she retires, she’ll still go on writing books to share her wealth of experiences in teaching.
The movie is quite well directed by Lem Lorca who certainly knows how to accomplish the intentions of this special project in glorifying teachers. There are some slow stretches when it becomes quite didactic, but overall, it’s worth watching, mainly because of the very good acting of the three leads.
Anna Luna is so relaxed, so natural that she doesn’t seem to be acting at all. She has a romantic interest here, played by Paul Salas who’s obviously younger than her, but she willingly chooses her profession and puts affairs of the heart on hold.
Angeli Bayani is totally credible as the Aeta teacher, consistent in her characterization all throughout. The scene where her husband (Karl Medina) comes home with a newspaper containing the latest results of the board exams for teachers is a real winner, with Angeli’s acting sure to touch your emotions.
Gloria Sevilla is also outstanding in this movie. Her conviction and the very dignified way she carries herself all throughout makes her the perfect embodiment of someone who has grown old in her profession and cannot think of doing anything else other than the job she has been doing for more than five decades. Gloria is much, much better here than in “Kusina”, where her acting as Judy Ann Santos’ caring lola came out as something so tentative.
A big plus for the movie is the remote Aeta community in Pinatubo country where part of the movie was shot on location and stunningly captured by the camera for the big screen. Anna and Angeli are shown walking through miles and miles of lahar land amidst picturesque surroundings of jagged hills that look like they were just painted against the blue sky. You’d suddenly feel the urge of visiting the place which seems to be raw nature in all its untouched breathtaking beauty.