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CANNES, France – Filipino actress Jaclyn Jose won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, May 22, for her mesmerizing performance as a mother forced to sell drugs to survive before falling prey to corrupt police.

This is the first best actress win at Cannes for the Philippines. Brillante Mendoza won the first best director honor at Cannes back in 2009 for Kinatay. Another Filipino talent Raymond Red won the Short Film Palme d’Or in 2000.

A tearful Jaclyn said she was “so surprised” as she took to the stage to accept the award for her role in Ma’ Rosa by acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza.

“I am so surprised. I just went to have the red carpet walk with my daughter [actress Andi Eigenmann], my real-life daughter and my daughter in the movie also,” she said upon accepting the award, according to AP. “To Cannes, thank you so much, thank you to the jury, thank you that you liked our film.”

She said she had to forget everything she learned in her 30 years in the business for the role as a sweetshop owner and small-time drug dealer in Ma’ Rosa.

“The biggest challenge for me was not to act. Especially since I am coming from television shows where I play loud and campy characters,” she told reporters.

The 52-year-old said she had to “tone everything down to zero” — for the stark, realistic portrait of a woman fighting to do the best for her family in director Brillante Mendoza’s gritty film.

It is a dramatic change from her regular job, playing a spoilt, rich woman in the popular Philippine TV soap opera, “The Millionaire’s Wife”.

Variety magazine praised Jose for the “naturalistic grace” of her film performance, playing the matriarch of a family struggling to survive amid squalor.

The daughter of a Filipina mother and a largely absent American serviceman father, Jose first became famous in Philippine showbiz circles for her ethereal beauty.

But she has proved to be a versatile and hard-working actress, starring in dramas, comedies, horror stories, romances as well as television soap operas.

BEST ACTRESS. Jaclyn Jose poses onstage with her daughter Andi Eigenmann, Iranian producer and member of the Jury Katayoon Shahabi (2ndL), director Brillante Mendoza (2ndR), and Danish actor and member of the Jury Mads Mikkelsen after being awarded with the Best Actress prize during the closing ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 22, 2016. Photo by Valery Hache/AFP

BEST ACTRESS. Jaclyn Jose poses onstage with her daughter Andi Eigenmann, Iranian producer and member of the Jury Katayoon Shahabi (2ndL), director Brillante Mendoza (2ndR), and Danish actor and member of the Jury Mads Mikkelsen after being awarded with the Best Actress prize during the closing ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 22, 2016. Photo by Valery Hache/AFP

She has won numerous acting awards in her native country and worked with its most prestigious filmmakers.

But it is her relationship with “Ma ‘Rosa” director Mendoza — a friend for over three decades — which has brought her into the international limelight.

She appeared in Mendoza’s first movie “The Masseur” 11 years ago and also his drama “Serbis”, which competed in Cannes in 2008. — Agence France-Presse

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