Director Gigi Javier Alfonso (rightmost) and scriptwriter-producer Baby Nebrida (in red) on the set of Flames Of Love which is the story of four ordinary families whose lives are interwoven with one another]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 5, 2012 (PHILSTAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - For a scene in Flames of Love that called for Lani Mercado and Christopher de Leon to kiss against a setting sun, Baby Nebrida, the scriptwriter-producer of the movie, prayed for “divine guidance” and, true enough, director Gigi Javier Alfonso got exactly what she wanted. It came out very beautifully on the screen, as if painted by an Unseen Hand.

“I asked Jesus to help me find the right actors,” said Baby, a Marian devotee. And again, true enough, those she tapped for the roles said yes right away — (besides Lani and Christopher) Dina Bonnevie, Ricky Davao, Jaclyn Jose, Valerie Concepcion, Allen Dizon and Megan Young, plus, among other supporting cast, Rina Reyes, Alvin Anson, Ku Aquino, Mavi Lozano and Marita Zobel.

Produced by Gold Barn Media and released through Solar Entertainment Corp., Flames of Love is the story of four ordinary families whose lives are interwoven with one another…characters anybody can easily relate to.

“It provides a rich spiritual nourishment that will make you think of how a loving and merciful God can be in control of every near disaster in life,” added Baby who decided to do the movie in answer to the call of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to evangelize and spread God’s love and mercy through media as we celebrate The Year of Faith this year.

The chancellor of the UP Open University and formerly Multi-media Center director and current chairperson of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Gawad Urian), Gigi has done short films, telesines and TV drama anthologies (more than a hundred episodes). Flames Of Love is her maiden venture as a movie director. She and Baby are good friends and they have worked on several projects.

“I have so much respect for Baby’s work,” said Gigi (who was Miss Talent in the 1972 Bb. Pilipinas pageant won by Armi Barbara Crespo).

“I thought of Gigi as director because the characters in the story are strong women,” said Baby, “and that’s right along her alley.”

The powerhouse cast includes (clockwise, from left) Christopher de Leon, Ricky Davao, Dina Bonnevie, Valerie Concepcion, Megan Young, Allen Dizon and Lani Mercado

“I see Baby in every character,” joked Gigi. “The women in Flames Of Love are, Baby is right, very strong. Walang martyr na woman character dito. They are not super-women, they have their weaknesses, but they dare do what they want and they are ready for the consequences.”

Lani plays a dermatologist, married to Christopher, a professor and good husband, and at the same time having an affair with her psychiatrist/ex-lover (Alvin). Ricky plays a philanderer, the ex-husband of Dina who is a loving mother who collects paintings. Valerie plays a young woman molested by her forever drunk stepfather since she was small, with Jaclyn as her mother.

Asked why she chose such a complicated story, Baby explained, “I have always enjoyed award-winning screenplays like Crash and Babel, so I was challenged to do a screenplay with the same structure, something I haven’t done in my past films and teleplays. It turned out to be workable where the characters are interwoven to plots other than the main one. I enjoyed putting the characters together. I finished writing the script in five days inside my prayer room of our small rest house in Subic.”

While on leave from showbiz mainstream, Baby focused on her media apostolate in promoting the Love and Divine Mercy of Jesus and the messages of the Blessed Mother spread through the TV show Heart To Heart Talk which she wrote, produced and hosted for seven years. It was her son Jodi (who plays a cameo role in Flames Of Love as Megan’s boyfriend) who talked to Baby out of a planned retirement and to return to movies, her real passion.

“I love the simple message of Flames Of Love,” said Baby, “which is that we are all sinners and that God is loving and merciful, waiting for us to go back to Him renewed in our faith.”

That brings us to the “mystical experiences” Baby and Gigi claimed to have during the shoot.

“We never used rain effect when we needed one even while doing the continuity scenes,” recalled Baby, “and yet, we got real rain. We got sunshine when we badly needed it for some scenes. God saw our hearts and read our minds and He guided us through it all. My whole life depends on prayers and on my deep Christian faith.”

And yes, that magical sunset as backdrop for Lani and Christopher’s tender kissing scene. The sun came out at the precise moment, out from those mountains where the actors were standing like the foreground — “Hollywood directors would wait for days for that kind of effect,” exclaimed Alvin, “and we got it in less than 15 minutes.”

Up to now, Baby is ecstatic about that scene.

“It was a dancing sun, too, and Our Lady is the Woman Clothes with the Sun manifesting to all of us her sweet, majestic presence,” she gushed.

After the shoot, Baby and the entire production crew and cast celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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