Sabine: Of cockfighting, love, and forgiveness

by Admin-Phmp

Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

I rarely watch movies — I only do it if I have time or am bored. One of those I watched before the lockdown happened was Sabine, whose premiere in Davao City I attended.

“Sabine” is the story of a native young woman sold by her family to Leopatro, a young professional cockfighter who has a hare lip. On the side, Leopatro pimps and takes Sabine into the big city as a sex slave. When she refuses to do what he demands of her, Leopatro cuts off the girl’s ears. By doing so, he thinks she would become useless.

Sabine tries to escape from Leopatro but is accidentally hit by a car driven by Richard Martin, who was on his first day in town as a volunteer English teacher. He brings her to the hospital, but when he returns, Sabine is no longer around. Wanting to find out what happens to “the girl,” he searches for her until he meets Adriana, the kind prostitute who sort of “adopted” Sabine.

To make the long story short, Richard and Adriana have moved in together. Leopatro undergoes surgery to repair his hare lip; Sabine matures, and they do not recognize each other when they meet again in Richard’s informal English class. It was not until they fell in love with each other that they came to know each other.

The film was based on the script written by award-winning American novelist Tom Anthony (of “Rebels of Mindanao” distinction). According to Direk Ian, Anthony approached him to direct the best-selling book into a movie. But due to budget constraints, the two decided to make another material which he has already written. 

Anthony thought of “MacArthur.” But it was just a location and not a novel. So, the novelist decided to create fictional characters and came up with “Sabine.” But how he came up with the idea is an interesting story in itself.

Anthony now lives in Davao City together with his Filipina wife and two lovely daughters. While driving back and forth from Dumoy, a part of Toril district, to downtown every day, Tom wrote down what he saw. One of those that caught his attention was the MacArthur Highway in Matina.

“General (Douglas) MacArthur was a personal boyhood hero and inspired me to go to West Point,” he admitted in an earlier interview. “I found it ironic that I now live along a highway named after him. I began to wonder how he would feel if he drove along this highway, today, and I started to write a report called ‘MacArthur Highway.'”

Playing the title role of “Sabine” was Valerie “Bangs” Garcia. Direk Ian and the actress have been friends for years already. In fact, he was supposed to cast her in “Bad Romance” in the role played by Mercedes Cabral, but because of her tight schedule, Garcia couldn’t do it.

Garcia’s love interest in the movie, Leopatro was portrayed by Felix Roco. The son of local cinema legend Bembol Roco, he made a mark with his internationally acclaimed performance in the Venice Film Festival double-awardee “Engkwentro.”

Supporting the two were Gwen Garci and Hollywood actor James Monson. Garci is widely known as being one of the original members of the all-female group Viva Hot Babes. Monson, on the other hand, is the man who plays Dalton West in the forthcoming American movie, “The Bigfoot Chronicles.”

“Sabine” is the first full-length movie to be shot entirely in Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal. It features some of the city’s famous landmarks, including the Bankerohan Market.

On why Anthony has chosen Davao City as the setting of “Sabine” (which is now available in the booking form), he answers: “I think it is interesting to see a place you know through the eyes of a foreigner, it makes one see it differently.”

The movie received an R-16 rating not because there’s sex or too much violence in it—the reason: cockfighting. In fact, it has three long sequences that featured cockfighting. And yes, there were chickens killed during the filming.

Although “Sabine” is a vehicle for Garcia and Roco, the performances that stood out were those of character actor Mon Confiado (who appeared in more than 300 films already) and Monson. The latter’s character reminded me of the part played by Charlie Sheen in the Oscar-winning movie, Platoon.

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