Irma Adlawan: Queen of Philippine Independent Cinema




Irma Adlawan. Her name resonates on the 4 corners of the TV industry; it transcends through the silver screen; it roars through the walls of the theater. Her name means Theater Goddess; her name spells Queen of Philippine Independent Cinema. Her name is, Irma. Many of us would know her from the commercial films and TV stints she has done. But little did we know, there is much more about Irma that we need to know. Irma has conquered every acting platform there is, and it is just right to give her the kind of attention she deserves.

Irma in Madea
Irma in Madea (Photo by Jude Bautista)

Irma and the Theater
Irma Adlawan graduated from the University of the Philippines with an arts degree on Speech and Drama. Her theater craft was honed through Dulaang UP, under the great Tony Mabesa. She then became a member of the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company in 1991. After doing a bunch of theater productions, her name started to resound within the theater industry. In 1992, she was then named as Best Performer by the Toyama International Theater Festival. Soon after her 2002, 2005 and 2006 Best Actress wins, she is now part of the Aliw Award Hall of Fame. In 2003, her Air Road performance was cited by the New York Times magazine.

Irma Adlawan in Maalaala Mo Kaya (ABS-CBN)
Irma Adlawan in Maalaala Mo Kaya (ABS-CBN)

Irma Inside the Box
Irma has started acting for TV even before she did films. Her first few tv acting stints were for the TV series Angkan during the late 80s and an episode for Calvento Files. She has also been also been part of GMA’s Encantadia, Marimar, Amaya; and ABS-CBN’s Lobo, Kristine, Magkaribal, Tayong Dalawa. She also did around 11 episodes of Maalaala Mo Kaya from 2006-2013. She is now part of the upcoming TV series, Got To Believe.

Irma Adlawan in Vox Populi
Irma Adlawan in Vox Populi

Irma on Silverscreen
In the middle of her Theater-TV acting switchings, she managed to penetrate through the film industry. She has done various commercial films like Bridal Shower, Milan, Santa Santita to name a few. She has also been a part of movie franchises like Regal’s Mano Po and Star Cinemas’ Sarah-JLC You Changed My Life, A Very Special Love and It Takes A Man and A Woman. She has also done a number of films produced by independent art houses like Santa Nina, ICU Bed #7, Mga Pusang Gala, Sa North Diversion Road and Ataul For Rent to name a few. She now holds 2008 FAMAS and Gawad Pasado Best Supporting Actress awards for her film Ataul for Rent.

Irma in Transit (Cinemalaya 2013)
Irma in Transit (Cinemalaya 2013)

irma Adlawan

What made you do this film (Transit)?
Ang come on dito, it is in israel. I haven’t been there, and I would love to be there. After which is the story of the OFW, alam naman natin na maraming ganito na nangyayari. Maraming hirap na hirap na kababayan natin na nandoon. The people here would realize how hard it is to work there. Minsan nakakalimutan na ng mga kamag-anak na hindi pinupulot ang pera doon, kayod kabayo sila doon. Aside from that, I think working with young people excites me. It’s also a challenge din kasi hindi mo alam kung anong ibibigay nila sayo, kumbaga, madami pa silang gustong gawin, hindi pa sila jaded.

Was is hard working in a foreign land?
Hindi siya mahirap. I’ve done some (films) in asian countries, mas mahigpit sila. Ang kanilang security (Israel), nakakatakot. Ang haba haba ng proseso, there’s so many questions. After that, wala na. Basta wag mo lang i-disrupt yung traffic and privacy, okay lang sila.

How as it working with Hannah Espia (Director)?
What is nice about hannah, she would tell you (what she wants). Knowing that I’ve been in the business longer than she is, hindi sya matataakot na sabihin sayo na mas gusto ko ganito, mas gusto ko ito na lang gawin mo. No matter what you say, ang direktor ay direktor. It’s their concept, kanilang pelikula ito. Kami ay nagbibigay buhay lang sa gusto nilang iparating. Somehow natutuwa ako na ganun eh, na meron siyang gusto at sasabihin niya sayo.

What makes Transit different?
It’s not the usual. Ive seen the film sa GreenBelt, it think they did something different with the editing that surprised me as an actor. Kasi the script given to us was very linear. Pero ito hindi, you’ll see.

Challenges of doing Transit:
I had sleepless nights memorizing the Hebrew lines and it’s a lot. For a language I haven’t encountered in my life, medyo talagang nakakatakot. I had been putting all my time and effort memorizing. We weren’t luck enough to get the training Hollywood people have, wherein they have a language coach. Kami talaga sariling sikap. I had to ask an authentic Hebrew person to be able to correct me. We had Skype dates with one of the boyfriends of our crew. I memorized them. Ayaw ko dumating sa Israel na madaming iniisip. So when I left, I memorized at least 90% of everything. Pagdating ko dun binigyan nila ko ng revisions. Pagkita ko ng revisions, ang daming bagong linya ng Hebrew na hindi ko pa naeencounter. Siguro out of exhaustion because it’s a long flight and hindi kami nakatulog, so pagod na pagod ako and natakot ako. Kaya ayun, umiyak ako. Ever thought of giving up? Hindi naman (ako gi-give-up). I cannot. I won’t do that to them. Especially when I agreed na to a project, no matter what challenges or problems come about, I will abandon any project basta nakasagot ako. Hindi din naman ito siguro yung pinakamahirap, pero siguro challenging dahil sa language.

End Goal of the Film:
When I saw the script, I didn’t know that it is existing. That it is happening in israel. This is an awareness film. (This film will) make our fellow Filipinos know that it is really not easy to go to a foreign land, in a foreign country wherein you’re not with your country men. (This film makes) us realize the problems they encounter and we that have to support them, especially the family of these OFWs. They think this is an easy task to work aborad, and they think they have the money? This is hard earned money and they should realize that. I think we should give importance to them, to the people who are working their asses off to be able to support their family.

On winning an award:
I am not expecting anymore after some time, kasi parang alam mo naman, all awards naman are very subjective. That’s why I am very thankful to the jurors that they like me. In every festival, in every cinemalaya that I do, we shouldnt take it to heart that we didnt get the best because there are just 5 people choosing what they like. For me, what’s important is that a lot of people approached me and said congratulations, which is honest and heart-felt and truthful. Yun ang mas importante sakin, yun ang mas nakakataba ng puso ko.


Irma Adlawan in MadHouseMNL


Written By
More from Raj Bay

Directors Showcase: Sana Dati

  “SANA DATI” Written and Directed by: JERROLD TAROG Cast: Paulo Avelino,...
Read More