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Constellation Prize: ‘Miss Bulalacao’ to premiere at this month’s Cinema One Originals Festival

With his face suffused in shadows by the dim lighting, he stood nervously on the stage that evening, in a dress. It was Biliran’s town fiesta and amassed before him—or her, as he would prefer—was a crowd of uninterested men and women and giggly children. Dodong knew this final question was pivotal to the pageant’s Q&A, one that could possibility hold the key to dreams coming true.

“Motherhood,” he replied, without realizing that his answer to what makes a woman had birthed a bundle of extraordinary events for the new Miss Bulalacao.

Directed by Ara Chawdhury, winner of the grand prize at the Sinulog Short Film Festival for her Operation Prutas earlier this year, Miss Bulalacao is a finalist—and the only entry from Cebu—for the 2015 Cinema One Originals Film Festival.

Miss Bulalacao director Ara Chawdhury (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015: photography by Mark Philip Dales/makeup by Romero Vergara/hair by Jessie Egos/shot on location at Qube Gallery featuring Insidious by Geovanni Abing)

Miss Bulalacao director Ara Chawdhury (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015: photography by Mark Philip Dales/makeup by Romero Vergara/hair by Jessie Egos/shot on location at Qube Gallery featuring Insidious by Geovanni Abing)

Teaming up on this project are award-winning cinematographer Christian Linaban and producers Jill Anoba-Yap and Bianca Balbuena through Cinema One Originals, Panumduman Pictures, Above the Line Productions and Epic Media. Ara wrote and directed Miss Bulalacao with inspirations from several indie films, the popular video God-game The Sims, and her own childhood experiences in her hometown in Naval, Biliran, where the movie was shot.

Pregnant and bored, the young filmmaker was looking around her mom’s village for something to shoot. “Our helper’s family was living with us; and an addition to the household was the maid’s stepson, a flamboyant and proud boy,” Ara recalls. “I was aware that the husband beat up his wife time and again. It wasn’t hard to imagine then why the boy had stopped singing à la Regine Velasquez every morning, knowing his father had a short temper and heavy hand. I thought to myself, maybe if he were the pregnant one, his dad would go easy on him.”

BEHIND THE SCENES: Shooting at the director's hometown in Biliran. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)

BEHIND THE SCENES: Shooting at the director’s hometown in Biliran. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)

Miss Bulalacao is a black comedy featuring a young drag queen (Dodong) who joins a barangay gay pageant with the hope of gaining acceptance in his father’s eyes and in his community. When he does win, Dodong’s dad remains hostile and the nod of approval he had anticipated never came. Instead the father runs after Dodong, who flees to a jungle where he cries his heart out to a single shining star. Instantly, there’s a flash of white light. What follows are the strangest nine months of his life as Dodong finds himself pregnant. The whole barangay, now abuzz with rumors of a miraculous encounter or an alien abduction, ridicules him.

Ara says the satire intends to send a message of respect—for all people, their individuality and their roles in society. The film depicts the effects of community sentiment (whether positive or not) on an individual, as well as the culture and attitudes of the people of Region VIII. “Regional stories are important fibers in Philippine cinema because of the little stories that we don’t hear in the cities we live in,” says Bianca, one of the producers. Ara adds that Region VIII is one of the poorest in the country, even before typhoon Haiyan. “I am hoping this film sheds some light on the culture and attitudes of people who have to survive on family bonds and community spirit, and how the individual suffers for this imbalance.”

BEHIND THE SCENE: Director Ara Chawdhury films one of the movie's pivotal scenes. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)

BEHIND THE SCENES: Director Ara Chawdhury films one of the movie’s pivotal scenes. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)

The film stars Cebuano performer Russ Ligtas in his first lead role in a film. Russ says of the experience, “Even as someone who is part of the LGBT, shooting the film revealed so many things about my own prejudices. I am humbled to be part of it.” The cast includes Chai Fonacier, Ferdinand Mesias, Tessie Tomas, Nanette Inventor, Mon Confiado, Jeff Ogario, Nikki dela Paz, Ronyel Compra, Paz Tabueldan and Tita Cris. Tomas, who is a native Waray speaker, says it was a chance to reconnect with her heritage. “Miss Bulalacao is a cleverly wacky story that challenges our beliefs on faith. I am proud to be a part of it,” she says.

Miss Bulalacao will premiere at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival on November 9-17, 2015. See screening dates below:


Miss BulalacaoWednesday, November 11, 2015 (gala premiere)
7:40 p.m., Trinoma

Thursday, November 12, 2015
12:30 p.m., Glorietta
10:00 p.m., SM Megamall

Saturday, November 14, 2015
1:10 p.m., Resorts World Manila
2:45 p.m., SM Megamall
4:50 p.m., Glorietta

Monday, November 16, 2015
12:30 p.m., SM Megamall

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
12:30 p.m., Glorietta
3:30 p.m., Trinoma

by Rusel Apa-ap sittings editor Patty Taboada photography Mark Philip Dales
makeup Romero Vergara hair Jessie Egos locale Qube Gallery
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015


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LONDON IN FULL BLOOM: An Exclusive Look at the recent Chelsea Flower Show

Dame Judy Dench (center in white) with gallery owner, Jerry Sibal, Edwin Josue, writer Eva Gullas and artist James Doran-Webb.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London, one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world, returned in full glory in May 2023, captivating visitors with its stunning displays and landscape designs. Held annually on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, this year’s show proved to be a true feast for the senses, showcasing an array of breathtaking gardens, vibrant floral arrangements, and innovative landscaping. The 3-day event showcased 36 outdoor gardens, including four balcony gardens for small spaces. Inside the giant pavilion, blooms compete with each other, exotic flowers, roses, and many more.

Princess Kate Middleton walking the booths at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judy Dench, who owns several of Webb’s pieces in her garden, with James Doran-Webb and Jerry Sibal discussing the works of James.

One of the flower arrangements competing at the show.

The 2023 Chelsea Flower Show embraced a Nature’s Harmony theme, with a strong focus on sustainability and mental health. The show’s organizers emphasized the importance of sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity conservation, inspiring attendees to create beautiful outdoor spaces while preserving and protecting the environment.

One of the floral gazebo displays recycled chairs and salvaged materials.

Shops at the Chelsea Flower Show are mostly from sustainable materials.

What’s Cebu got to do with the Chelsea Flower Show in London? One person. James Doran Webb (, an Englishman working with driftwood, has been displaying his artworks for several years. James collects cast-off driftwood and shapes them into beautiful animal shapes that find places in some of the most iconic gardens. Leaping horses, owls, reindeer, and the occasional dragon, James Webb’s creations are avidly collected by landscapers to add accent to gardens in all sizes, using cast-off wood, fitting perfectly with the sustainable element—something Mr. Webb has done quite well for the last decade.

The impressive dragon of James Doran-Webb


The Philippine International Flower Festival will be held at the PICC in Manila from January 14 to 18, 2024. Watch out for more info from our website!

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