Maria Labo is a 2015 Philippine thriller film directed by Roi Vinzon. It is based on an urban legend about an Overseas Filipino worker believed to be an aswang known as “Maria Labo” who is said to have eaten her own children.
The film revolves on Maria (Kate Brios) a loving and dutiful life wife to her huband, Ermin, a police officer (Jestoni Alarcon) with whom she has two children named Pablo (Miggs Cuaderno) and Rosalinda (Lenlen Frial). Facing financial problems, Maria was convinced to become an Overseas Filipino Worker after she learned that her high school friend Emily (Sam Pinto) applied to become an overseas worker. Ermin was hesitant with his wife’s plans initially but eventually gave his consent. Maria then went to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to work as a domestic worker.
In Dubai, Maria befriends Nanay Leng a fellow Filipino who is also working in the emirate. In one instance in the streets after buying groceries for her employer she was raped on a van and was later found wandering. Maria was bought to a hospital by people who found her loitering around and at the hospital she was recommended to be brought back to the Philippines. While hospitalized, her Filipino friend passes a curse to Maria. The cursed turned to Maria into an aswang.
In the Philippines, she was transferred to the her province’s provincial hospital, where the medical personnel found something wrong about her. They conclude that she has amnesia and took note of her aggressive behavior. Ermin came to brought her back to their home, but a hospital employee discouraged him due to their findings and said that his spouse might not even recognize him. Ermin eventually convinced the hospital to take her back to their home saying that it might bring her memories back.
Back at the Maria’s family residence, Maria seemingly is back to normal. This is until Maria threatened her children with a knife who were running around their house before she pointed the knife. Shortly, Ermin became aware the incident with Maria claiming that the action was not within her control. Alone, her aswang persona begins to take control over her and one day she killed her children and cooked them. When Ermin found out what she did, Maria was shot repeatedly by her husband’s gun and runs outside their home.
Ermin then burries the remains of her children. Shortly, he witness a remorseful Maria crying nearby whose aswang persona then takes over once again. Maria receives a wound on her face after her husband hacked her face with a bolo knife and escapes once again.
Then rumors of an aswang causing terror throughout the town spread. Ermin tried to consult an albularyo who said that there is nothing that can be done to return Maria back to normal. The police then pursues the aswang that is said to have been causing problems to the town. After some encounters, Maria was killed. The film ends with an embalmer who is working on Maria’s body. The embalmer then founds out that Maria’s supposed corpse was nowhere to be found, only to be found her to be still alive.
Kate Brios – Maria / Maria Labo
Jestoni Alarcon – Ermin
Sam Pinto – Emily
Miggs Cuaderno – Pablo
Lenlen Frial – Rosalinda
Roi Vinzon decided to come up with a film based on an urban legend of a Overseas Filipino Worker who is believed to have became an aswang who have killed and ate her own children. Vinzon heard of the story while he was in Bacolod and became interested in making an adaptation of the tale into a film. To avoid legal problems, the real name of the woman was not used in the film.
The tale is particularly well-known in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Labo is said to be from the Visayas region with various accounts saying that she came from either Iloilo, Capiz, or Sorsogon. It was rumored that Labo came to Davao in particular in the 1980s or 1990s. “Labo” is an Ilonggo word for “to hack”, according to the legend, Maria Labo was given a cut on her face by his husband after the former cooked and ate their children.
The film project later received funding from a group of investors from Starbuilders Production. The film is the first project of Starbuilders Production and also the first for Vinzon since 1995 when he directed Boy Indian. The film also had a comfortable but reasonable budget with Vinzon refusing to brand Maria Labo as an indie film.
The film was primarily shot in Angeles, Pampanga with some scenes shot in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.Director Vinzon, a resident of Angeles, decided to shoot the film in the city because he found the place compatible to his ideas he has in mind for the film.Shooting in Dubai took a week to be completed.
Vinzon also said that the film did not rely much on special effects since he wanted the film to feel “natural” as possible.
Maria Labo was released in cinemas in November 11, 2015. The film was distributed by VIVA Films.