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Friday, February 13, 2009

Cesar Montano

Cesar Manhilot, known by his popular screen name Cesar Montano, is a multi-awarded Filipino actor and film director.

He started in show business as a stuntman for a lot of known Filipino actors. He played roles in numerous B movies. He then played major roles in several action movies and a brief but successful television career playing the lead role in the television sitcom Kaya ni Mister, Kaya ni Misis with veteran actress Maricel Soriano.

His breakout role is his portrayal of José Rizal, the Philippine National Hero in the film José Rizal. The film is unprecedented as it portrays Philippine society during Spanish colonization of the Philippines and its relevance up to the present day.

He has won numerous acting awards, especially in his internationally acclaimed movies, such as Hollywood's The Great Raid, Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River), José Rizal, Muro Ami (Reef Hunters) and Bagong Buwan (New Moon).

Aside from acting, Montano also embarked on a singing career, with the release of his music album Subok lang or Just try in 2000. He has also ventured into film production as well as directing, with Panaghoy sa Suba as his directorial film debut.

After his first Hollywood movie The Great Raid with Benjamin Bratt, he was cast in another Hollywood movie Another Deep Breath'.

In May 2007, he ran for senate under the coallition TEAM UNITY (TU). Unfortunately, he lost by landslide (ranking only 22nd). GMA news reported that he lost about P40 million worth of endorsement for running in public office.

Biography and Career:

Montano, fondly called by his nickname Buboy, was born and raised in Sta. Ana, Manila, Philippines, but traces his roots to the Manhilots of Baclayon, in the island province of Bohol in Central Visayas, Philippines.

He is the fifth of seven children born to a lawyer and his Seventh-day Adventist wife. Montano says discipline was the hallmark of his childhood: he describes his father as a strict disciplinarian, and his mother imposing the religious prohibitions of "no pork" and "no movies".

Montano went to the Sta. Ana Elementary School, and finished Engineering at the Lyceum. An average student, he was good at drawing and would have become a painter, if not a singer, if he hadn't become an actor.

Montano was first married to Marilyn Polinga, a fellow Boholano he met at a local Seventh-day Adventist Church. Their two children, Angela and Angelo, grew up with her when they separated as a couple. When she died of a brain tumor in 1993, the children moved back with him. His other son, Caloy Diego, lives with his mother, Filipino actress Teresa Loyzaga, in Australia.

He is currently married to Philippine actress Sunshine Cruz with whom he has two daughters, Angeline Isabelle and Samantha Angeline.

Early Work:

The acting bug bit Montano when he was in his senior year in college in 1984, and soon enough, he was taking acting workshops with the likes of Joel Lamangan and Imee Marcos, and landed the role of elevator boy in "Estremenggoles." TV and movie roles quickly followed: "Agos" with Gretchen Barretto, the Pinoy Thriller, "Regal Shocker", and the "Maricel Soriano Drama Special". He did a lot of B movies which he prefers to call "trash" movies rather than bold.

Montano's passion for acting was first seen in Dulaang UP's stage productions. He was an active member of University of the Philippines or UP Playwright under the direction of Tony Mabesa.

His first movie careers were as a stuntman for a lot of known Filipino actors. In his early career, he played major roles in several action movies while also having a successful TV career as he played the lead role of Buboy Magtanggol opposite Maricel Soriano in the TV sitcom Bida si Mister, Bida si Misis.

Critical and Popular Success:

One of his greatest performances is the role of José Rizal, the Philippine National Hero, in the film José Rizal in 1998. The film, directed by critically acclaimed director Marilou Diaz-Abaya, is unprecedented for depicting Philippine society during Spanish colonization of the Philippines and its relevance up to the present day.

In 1999, he played the role of Fredo, the ruthless captain of 150 muro ami divers in Muro Ami, a film that depicts one of the worst forms of child labor in the illegal fishing industry. The film won thirteen awards at the 1999 Metro Manila Film Festival.


Then, Cesar Montano produced, directed and starred in the 2004 film Panaghoy sa Suba or The Call of the River. It features Filipino actors Juliana Palermo, Jackie Woo, Phil Anthony, Caridad Sanchez, Joel Torre, Daria Ramirez, Ronnie Lazaro, Suzette Ranillo, Rommel Montano, Dr. Warfe Engracia, Ramon Villanueva, Chelo Espina, Flora Gasser, Disi Alba and Rebecca Lusterio.

It is an epic story set during the American Occupation (1942) and the Japanese Occupation (1945), shot amidst the virgin splendor of the island province of Bohol, Philippines mostly along and around the Loboc River which plays a significant role in the story. It is a mixture of action, drama, romance, and history.

The film is Cesar Montano's directorial debut with an almost entirely Visayan cast, and perhaps the biggest film ever to be shot in its entirety in the Visayas. The film, intended for both national and international exhibition, boldly used Visayan as the main language.

It was given an "A" rating by the Cinema Evaluation Board or CEB of the Film Development Council of the Philippines and was CM Films' entry to the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival. The CEB described Cesar Montano's direction as "meticulous but light-handed." It turned "a somewhat rambling and slow screenplay into a poetic, sometimes even magical, current of silent struggle and survival."

The Call of the River won multiple awards. It has bagged Second Best Picture (to Mano Po 3), Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Score, Gatpuno Villegas Cultural Award at the Metro Manila Film Festival, 2004; and Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress at Gawad Suri Awards, Manila, 2005.

Panaghoy sa Suba, which garnered 16 awards and 11 nominations including 5 from the Metro Manila Film Festival, was also given an endorsement by the UNESCO. It was named Best Picture at the International Festival of Independent Films held in Brussels, Belgium. Montano was also chosen Best Director. In addition, Montano also won Best Actor in Panaghoy sa Suba in the Golden Screen Awards.

Panaghoy sa Suba was invited as an exhibition in the Tous les Cinemas du Monde (Movies of the World) at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. It has also been invited for exhibition in other international film festivals in Berlin, Toronto, Tokyo, Korea and in the Czech Republic’s Karlo Vary Film Festival.


In 2005, American film director and screenwriter John Dahl cast Montano in The Great Raid after taking notice of Montano's performance in the movie Muro Ami. He played Juan Pajota in the Miramax Film set in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines in 1945 towards the end of WWII. The director was impressed with the bald look Cesar sported in "Muro Ami". In addition, his intense performance in Marilou Diaz-Abaya's film was a determining factor for his being chosen to play Captain Pajota. Only a few Filipino actors have penetrated the international film scene and enjoyed equal exposure with foreign stars.

Montano was cast in another U.S. film, Another Deep Breath, scheduled to start shooting in the San Francisco Bay Area in March 2005. It will be the first film starring a Hollywood actress and a Filipino actor to be released by a major American distributor. David Maquiling, a Filipino-American filmmaker, is directing "Another Deep Breath". It also features a Filipino-Canadian actress, Jane McLean, who will play the wife of Montano's character. The story is described as "an intense love affair that crosses racial lines and threatens the marriage of Peter Materdo (Montano), a thirty-something Filipino American college professor, and endangers the career of Alison Turner (to be played by the Hollywood actress), a new teacher at the college and a former student of Peter's.


On January 1, 2000, Montano released his first music solo album entitled Subok Lang (Just Try) under Star Records. While being famous as a Philippine action movie star, he is also known for singing acoustic ballads. Nine of the album's ten songs is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, giving a quiet, mellow ambiance. He sings a duet on the second version Kailan Ko Lang Sinabi (When I Just Told You) with his wife, Sunshine Cruz, who is also a famous Filipino actress and recording artist. The spirited Ikaw Lang (Only You) is the only song to use other instruments besides the acoustic guitar, and drums and bass are also heard. Subok lang went on to become Platinum record.

UNESCO Commissioner:

On May 19, 2005, Cesar Montano was sworn in as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO Philippine commissioner for culture and the arts. This came as a surprise to most Filipinos because he is better known for his award-winning roles in critically acclaimed movies Rizal, Muro Ami than his principles and beliefs. Little is known of his tireless and thankless efforts to "promote" his home province, Bohol, where he and his family always spend Christmas. Whenever he can, Montano makes sure to put in a good word about this little paradise in central Philippines that there's hardly a Filipino who doesn't know yet of his Boholano heritage. His vocal support for Bohol and the preservation of its heritage and environment, he says, may have earned him the nomination to the UNESCO.  But he did not seek the honor. Montano believes there is something to be proud of in every part of the country-the lovely landscape or delicacies or exotic catch from the sea. According the him:

“ Kahit hindi nila ako gawing ambassador, promoting Bohol is my heart's desire. With my appointment, makakatulong ako to get sponsors for our projects from the products that I endorse. ”

Born and raised in Manila, Montano says he learned the importance of heritage preservation early on. He saw how people slowly forgot over the years the value of safeguarding tradition, culture, arts and heritage-the backbone Filipinos need to be able to stand proudly. To foster national pride, Montano believes parents must instill this value in their children. Character is first molded at home.

Political Career:

On Friday, February 16, 2007, Philippine Daily Inquirer in its Breaking News Section, bore the article title "Petilla out of TEAM Unity, actor Cesar Montano in". It wrote how Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, spokesman for the administration's TEAM Unity, confirmed that Leyte Governor Jericho Petilla is pulling out of the administration's TEAM Unity senatorial lineup and will be replaced by actor Cesar Montano.

The article further explained that in a text message to, Durano said Montano was chosen by Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) and by TEAM Unity itself.  Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio said Montano was endorsed by Petilla himself because the actor was also a Visayan. Claudio said in a text message: “ Visayan for Visayan, youth for youth, substance for substance ”