Jodi Sta. Maria plays the title role in Clarita, a horror film by Black Sheep that is based on the life of Clarita Villanueva. Hers was the first recorded possession in the Philippines, around the year 1953. It was actually a high-profile case, making the headlines both here and abroad. It is also quite timely with the Vatican’s opening of the exorcism course to all major Christian faiths for the first time in 14 years, brought about by an increase in the reports of demonic possessions.
“Pinakamahirap? Lahat!” revealed Jodi Sta. Maria with a laugh. “I would say that this is one of the most difficult, most dangerous, and most challenging na nagawa ko sa buhay ko.”
Playing the role of a possessed person in no easy feat. Aside from the emotional and spiritual preparation, Jodi also had to deal with many physical demands. Director Derick Cabrido confirms that Jodi had no stunt double for most of the stunts.
“The next thing I knew, ako na ‘yung nakasabit, ako na ‘yung nakabaliktad. Anong nangyari?” shared Jodi. “Halos lahat po kasi nung stunts, ako ‘yung gumawa. That’s the first time na ginawa ko ‘yun for a project.”
There was an entire day that she spent just shooting scenes on the harness. “May mga scenes na very physical so hindi maiiwasan na magkapasa. May mga times na sumakit ‘yung crotch area because of the harness,” she said.
Jodi came face to face with a lot of her fears during the production. “Kinailangan nila akong isabit sa ceiling, hinarness nila ako pabaliktad. Mataas ‘yung kisame, e takot ako sa heights. Nakakakaba talaga, lalo na ang taas-taas nung pagkasabit. So kailangan ko talagang i-brave ‘yung takot ko para lang makunan ‘yung eksena na ‘yun.
“Pwede na nga akong maging stuntwoman pagkatapos nito. Sabit dito, balibag diyan.” While she was hanging from the ceiling, she worried about the possibility of something going wrong. “Ang pumasok sa isip ko, paano kung maputol yung tali? Paano kung hindi makaya ng kutson na sasalo sa akin? Paano ‘yung anak ko?”
The role also demanded the use of prosthetics. “Mahirap yung prosthetics ni Clarita kasi may mga levels din siya. Buong body ko covered ng prosthetics, particularly ‘yung buong face ko hanggang neck ko,” says Jodi. “Before nila i-apply ‘yun, kailangan muna kaming gumawa ng face casting. Kailangan takpan ng plaster ‘yung buong face ko, na ang hole lang na meron is sa nose para makahinga ako. Ang dilim-dilim, wala na akong makita.”
Aside from being acrophobic, Jodi is also claustrophobic. So the process wasn’t just tiring for Jodi, but one that triggered her fears. “So andun sila Direk, hawak-hawak ‘yung kamay ko, just to let me know that I’m not alone, that they’re there, kasi nase-stress na talaga ako,” she said. “Pagdating naman sa shoot, isa, isa’t kalahating oras para lang gawin ‘yung prosthetics sa face. Hindi lang ‘yun kasi meron pa siya sa back, sa arms, sa legs, fingers. Buong katawan. Hindi talaga siya madali. Umuuwi ako every shooting day na dugyot.”
Jodi also had to deliver many of her lines in a foreign tongue. One of the characteristics of a legitimate possession is the ability to speak a foreign language fluently, one that the possessed person typically has no idea how to do. “Of course, hindi ko naman naiintindihan ang Latin. Hindi rin ako marunong mag-German or French,” she said. She had to memorize extensive lines of three languages, only knowing the context. “Pero kailangan mo sabihin with full conviction. You have to deliver it with conviction and emotion.”
The difficulty wasn’t just in learning the languages, but in the complexity of acting required while delivering them. “Magge-German, magfe-French, magla-Latin siya habang nagagalit, umiiyak, natatakot,” revealed co-star Ricky Davao, lauding Jodi’s acting skills.
Knowing how difficult everything was, why did Jodi choose to pursue it still? “Maganda din kasi na, for once in my life, na-experience ko ‘yung bagay na ‘yun. Kahit hindi ako kumportable, kailangan kong gawin. Later on, baon mo yun,” she explained. “Hindi naging madali ‘yung proseso, pero sa rushes na nakita namin, very rewarding.”
The trailers have already been released to the public, after two revisions. According to MTRCB, the first two versions were just too scary for general viewing. To those who want to be scared, though, the red band trailer was released by Black Sheep on social media platforms last week. Clarita will show on theatres on June 12, a treat to indulge in during the Independence Day holiday.