Michael Caine revisited

BY CHANCE, I discovered on Netflix channel a 2017 movie, Going in Style, starring Hollywood actors Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. Afraid of dying penniless, the old characters they play embark on a daring bank robbery.

Viewing the movie, I wondered how much those actors had stashed away from their long years of movie-making. Surely they would not have to rob a bank to live happily ever after.

What if Michael Caine, now 86, is offered to work on another movie in Boracay, would he accept?

Would he recognize the famous Boracay Island as the location of his movie Too Late the Hero, in 1968?

It is the same island that the actor wrote an entire chapter about in his autobiography What’s it All About? The book, unfortunately, described the island as “the worst location” he had ever filmed a movie in.

The movie also starred Hollywood actor Cliff Robertson.

If the same actors were to come back to Boracay today – fictitiously identified in the movie as New Hebrides Island – I bet they would no longer recognize it as the place where they filmed Too Late the Hero.

The book described Boracay thus: “All around us was dense jungle and great hill ranges…

“So shooting began in some of the worst conditions I had ever encountered on a film. We were plagued by insects, thorns and highest humidity temperature every day.”

The cast had to occasionally go to Olongapo, Manila or any city outside of the Philippines for well-deserved breaks.

Writing of the night he visited an Olongapo bar, he remembered the scantily-clad girls:

“I looked at their badly made-up, prematurely ravaged faces and saw the eyes go dead the moment no one was looking. These kids had been forced there by grinding poverty.”

One of Caine’s memorable moments in Manila was the night he was taken to a party where he was ushered to meet without prior notice President Ferdinand Marcos, who was in the company of Adnan Kashoggi, a foreign arms dealer.

At another time, he stopped his car when he saw a group of children scavenging garbage cans and thought how fortunate he had been with his own childhood.

“The kids finally spotted me,” Caine recalled, “and came over to ask me for money. I gave them all that I had and drove home with tears of anger in my eyes at a society that could treat its own people like this.”

The Boracay “jungle” that Caine came to does not exist today. The “open field” depicted in the movie as the territory of the British soldiers is gone. In its place have risen hundreds of hotels, commercial establishments and boarding houses.

It’s not the Boracay Michael Caine saw.

It’s also not the Boracay I first visited for the first time (together with the late Panay News’ founder Danny Fajardo) in 1982 when the island was truly rustic. There was not a single concrete building lining the beach front. Spaced far between were a score of nipa huts and carinderias. A two-bedroom hut for an overnight stay cost us P25 only.

Backpackers from Germany made up the majority of cottage occupants, according to our room boy.

The room boy briefed us on our own amenities: a wood-fueled parilla on which to broil fish, a box of match and a kerosene lamp. There was no electricity on the island yet.

Today, the island could be mistaken for any other expensive Philippine city, where nobody could escape air pollution belched by tricycles running on narrow roads. ([email protected]/PN)

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