With ‘Oro, Plata, Mata’ now on Netflix, writer shares glimpse behind making the masterpiece

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — Now that "Oro, Plata, Mata" can be streamed on Netflix, renowned screenwriter Jose Javier Reyes revisited the story behind the making of the masterpiece.

In a Facebook post, Reyes looked back at the time when he was asked to work with the late veteran director Peque Gallaga on a project that would later change the course of his life.

“When my friend, Don Escudero, invited me to meet with Peque Gallaga for a possible collaboration, I did not realize that it would be the turning point of my life,” he said, recounting that he was only 27 years old then and had just finished his studies at Indiana University. He added that he had written only four screenplays for Regal Films at the time.

“I have heard of Peque because of his work in television. I knew he was a visionary, a maverick, but I did not expect those meetings in his abode in New Manila -- where he showed me the rough sequence treatment of his project entitled ‘The Jungle Story’ -- would yield a film that changed all our lives,” Reyes said.

Showing how Filipinos were greatly affected by World War II was the most daunting task for Reyes.

“After the Japanese occupation, the Filipinos were never the same. Our moral fiber was destroyed by the brutality we experienced and the endurance that was demanded in order to survive,” wrote Reyes, echoing his late father’s thoughts.

His father’s musings were reflected in the 1982 war film, after Reyes realized that that was what they wanted the film to embody -- the transformation of the Filipino and the generational damage brought by violence and war.

On coming up with the title, Reyes recalled that he was on a bus ride to see Gallaga at his New Manila home when he remembered what his mother said to the contractor of their house earlier in the day.

“We were remodeling the house in Pasay and she kept reminding the contractor to count the steps of the new stairway we were installing. That was my eureka moment,” he said.

“When I arrived in New Manila where Peque, his wife Mads, and Don Escudero were waiting, with a three-year-old Wanggo running around in his toddler underwear, I announced to the group, ‘I have found our title: it is Oro, Plata, Mata.’”

“Oro, Plata, Mata” translates to “Gold, Silver, Death,” and is a nod to the traditional architectural superstition that the elements in a house, particularly staircases, should not end in a multiple of three, lest misfortunes befall those who live in it.

The film itself was layered in three parts, beginning with the Oro, when the audience catches a glimpse of the grandiose life of the Ojedas, until the Mata when their lives were completely turned upside down.

The stellar cast was composed of Cherie Gil, Sandy Andolong, Liza Lorena, Mitch Valdez, Lorli Villanueva, Ronnie Lazaro, Joel Torre, Kuh Ledesma, and Fides Cuyugan-Asencio.

“Oro, Plata, Mata” won several awards at the 1982 Gawad Urian, including best picture, direction, cinematography, production design, musical score, and sound. It also won the Luna awards for best production design and best supporting actress (Liza Lorena).

“To all those responsible for restoring and bringing our film to Netflix, now available for the new generation of film lovers and Filipinos to see, maraming salamat po [Thank you very much],” Reyes said.