By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 21-Apr-2019  ·  
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Director Caesar Soriano with cast of Mayor Antonio Halili Story.

Less than eight months after Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili was felled by assassin’s bullet last July 2, 2018, a film about his life and times was in the can.

He is the same city mayor who made headlines because of his “Walk of Shame” extra judicial penalty for apprehended drug dealers and/or users.

As of this writing, the culprit has yet to be apprehended and may yet follow the fate of former Tanauan Mayor Cesar Platon who was also assassinated in 2001.

But Mayor Halili’s case was special because broadcast journalist-turned director Caesar Soriano was able to interview the mayor a day before the assassination. It seemed the filming of the mayor’s life started way earlier. But on the eve of the assassination, Soriano got a call from the mayor telling him to see him first thing Monday morning the next day.

Was it because he had an idea as to how his life should end on film?

This premise is casually explored in the film, The Last Interview: The Mayor Antonio Halili Story screened recently at SM Lipa Theater.

Playing the mayor is John Estrada with Ara Mina playing the dutiful wife.

The most engrossing part of the movie is a chapter on the young Halili played very well by Martin Escudero. It turned out the young mayor was a clumsy suitor but has since then proven himself to be a good father and husband.

His disgust for drug addicts started way back when his cousin was raped by drug users. That was during his idyllic days in Nueva Ecija where he came from.

Migrating to Tanauan as a businessman, he turned to politics, lost in his first attempt and later winning.

With a script by Robert Abet Raz, the almost two-hour film had the feel of a documentary. Real footages of the city mayor’s functions interrupt the film narrative which turned out to be quietly engrossing. Mon Confiado had to age to play the mayor’s father.

Estrada was credible as the city mayor and by virtue of his character’s close association with the broadcaster, director Soriano had to wear a dual hat as actor-director. 

The film opened with a long interview and touched the life and times of the mayor in so many chapters.

How he got to Tanauan City from Nueva Ecija was never clearly explained.  But it was clear he was a Tanauan businessman before he became city mayor.

The most chilling part of the movie is the finale.

There is of course the film re-enactment of the flag ceremony with Estrada and the film extras playing city hall employees. When the shot was fired hitting the cell phone of the city mayor and piercing his chest, there appeared a sudden airing of the actual footage of the assassination.

Talk of art imitating life.

For the most part, the docu-bio never fails to elicit strong reaction from the audience.

That he is a well-loved city executive was one thing and that he was a good father and husband as well.

The direction is fairly good, the script never went beyond the character’s domestic and public life. But it seemed the former city mayor had a premonition his life would end so soon. Why did he agree to film his life early on before an assassin’s bullet ended his colorful life?

As it is, the life and times of the mayor is a reflection of politics in the country.

People serve, people die and the next of kin takes over.

The Last Interview: The Mayor Antonio Halili Story opens in cinemas May 22.  It stars John Estrada, Ara Mina, Caesar Soriano, Yayo Aguila, Mon Confiado, Martin Escudero, Juan Miguel Soriano.

John Estrada as Mayor Antonio Halili in the Caesar So-riano docu-bio.
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