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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Harrowing ordeal of Chiong Sisters on big screen anew

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At the media conference of Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story), a Viva Films presentation, members of the movie press were curious whether or not lead stars Donnalyn Bartolome and Meg Imperial were aware of how big the story of the Chiong sisters was in 1997.

Scenes from the crime drama based on the real-life rape and murder case of the Chiong sisters.

The Chiong murder case was an incident on July 16, 1997 in Cebu, in which sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, according to the prosecutors, were kidnapped near a mall in Cebu, raped them, and then threw one of the sisters into a ravine. The other sister was never found until now.

“It was a controversial case and the whole nation followed their story,” one senior scribe noted.

Going into detail, on that rainy evening, exactly 21 years and 1 day ago, the sisters were snatched from a waiting shed, dragged into a vehicle, and transported to a godforsaken place where they eventually suffer inhumane acts in the hands of evil men.

The next day, their parents were the ones to experience indiscernible agony at the sight of Marijoy’s lifeless body while Jacqueline in nowhere to be found. 

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Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story) lead stars Donnalyn Bartolome (left) and Meg Imperial.

“We can only tell so much about the Chiong family and their present situation because Mrs. Chiong was in contact with just one person, it’s Direk Carlo J. Caparas (who wrote the screenplay for the film). What we’re trying to do here is to retell the story of the family, how they were after the incident,” says Meg who plays Jacqueline in the film.

“I was worried about the negative feedback, and I’m nervous at the same time. But I focused on how the family felt regarding what happened. We had to really internalize so we could portray our characters since rape is a very sensitive topic,” adds Donnalyn who portrays Marijoy. 

Donnalyn Bartolome and Meg Imperial with first-time director Peach Caparas (center)

They added, based on what has been fed to them, Jacqueline and Marijoy were typical young women who were fortunate to belong to a loving family. They enjoyed the freedom to go out without chaperone. In case of Marijoy, she was in a relationship, while her elder sister Jacqueline was single and preferred the company of their parents.

In essaying their characters, Meg and Donnalyn remained to be professionals by not putting any limitations to what they could do as long as the story requires it. They trusted the director and their co-actors who made sure that they would still feel comfortable doing their scenes. 

“Sensitive scenes were shot in one go. It’s good that we’re working with professional people,” Meg shares. 

Both actresses understand that this film would open old wounds but they believe that director Peach Caparas, and Carlo J. Caparas, had consulted with the family on how this controversial story would be presented. 

Meanwhile, the ordeal that the Chiong family had gone through in search for justice is captured in the performances of Joel Torre and Alma Moreno playing the murdered sisters’ parents. Ryan Eigenmann takes the role of one of the perpetrators.

“We created this film in a way that it is open for interpretation,” said Peach Caparas on her debut film project. 

The retelling of the real-life murder case unspools in the cinemas nationwide tomorrow, July 18.

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