If Cesar Montano spends a lot of time with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim these days, it’s not because he will be his running mate for the elections next year.
The actor, who grew up in the city’s Sta. Ana district, is merely doing research for his next movie project – Alfredo Lim biopic No. 4.
“Itong pelikula lang po ang iniisip ko sa ngayon. Gusto ko lang magampanan nang mahusay ang role ko bilang Alfredo Lim,” he told reporters on Thursday during a tour of Hospicio de San Jose with the mayor.
Montano will be the fourth actor to portray Lim on the big screen, after Rudy Fernandez, Ramon Revilla, Sr. and Eddie Garcia.
He will also direct and line-produce the film under his production outfit, CM Films. Wilson Tieng’s Solar Films will finance the project.
Montano promises a different take on Lim’s life, one that will focus on Lim’s early career in the police force in the 1960s as recounted in the biography “May Langit Din Ang Mahirap: The Alfredo Siojo Lim Story” written by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, as well as a hitherto unknown facet of Lim’s childhood.
Montano said he does not plan to glorify Lim as the famous crimebuster or the Edsa hero who defied Marcos’ orders to disperse the crowds outside Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo at the start of the Edsa Revolution in 1986.
“Ang gagawin namin ay isang period film that will humanize him. Kaya interesado ako sa childhood niya,” he said of the decorated police general who served as National Bureau of Investigation director before he entered politics two decades ago.
That is why Lim took Montano on a tour of Hospicio de San Jose on Thursday — to show him around the orphanage where the mayor spent the first several years of his life as an abandoned child.
Lim, 82, had kept this sensitive matter a secret for most of his adult life. It is not mentioned in Joaquin’s biography.
On Thursday he revealed that his father died before he was born in 1929, and his mother turned him over to the orphanage when she found a new husband and had to relocate to Benguet.
“Siguro, naisip niya na I was a hindrance sa bago niyang pamilya kaya iniwan ako dito sa Hospicio,” Lim said, matter-of-factly.
He said only an aunt and an older cousin knew that he had been left at the orphanage, and his cousin went to visit him and took him out for a stroll once a month.
“Noong mamamatay na ang tiya ko, doon lang niya sinabi sa lola ko ang nangyari sa akin. Kaya noong 9 years old ako, kinuha na ako ng lola ko,” Lim said.
His grandmother showered him with love but she soon died during his early teens. “Bago siya namatay, sinabi niya sa akin, matuto kang alagaan ang sarili mo. Learn to stand on your own two feet,” he recounted.
Montano believes those formative years had a profound impact on Lim’s character.
“Kaya sobra siyang matapang at walang inuurungan. Kaya din parang hindi siya nagpapakita ng emosyon. Dahil napakasakit ng pinagdaanan niya noong bata siya,” Montano said.
Montano said the biopic’s working title is “The Turning Cradle”, a reference to the unique device once used by Hospicio de San Jose as a “face-saving machine” for mothers of unwanted babies.
Located at the entrance of the orphanage, which was established on its present site off Ayala Bridge in 1810, the turning cradle was an enclosed circular crib with an opening where a baby could be placed inside on a soft padding.
The unidentified mother would then turn it around to bring her baby into the orphanage without the need to present herself. A bell would then ring to alert the nuns inside that a new baby was in the cradle.
Montano plans to start filming in late August. The movie will be shown in early December two weeks before the opening of the Metro Manila Film Festival.