TV Notes — ‘Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin’

By Pablo A. Tariman

When the noontime teleserye Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin (ILAI) ends January 26, TV viewers are likely to be left with a gallery of characters of a few good men and an eternal villain in Philippine television.

Kim Chiu. Her role as Bianca she also lived in real life.

The saga of Gabriel Viloria (Gerald Anderson) who turns out to be Roman de la Vega’s (Michael de Mesa’s) son is a memorable profile of a son who survived against all odds. He is God-fearing, he loves his grandmother he fondly calls Lola Ganda (Gina Pareno) but he can be tough when pushed to the wall. “I have many things in common with my character, Gabriel,” said Gerald Anderson. “We share the same good family values, we are both athletic and we fight for what is right regardless of danger. I am proud to be part of this teleserye. I think we came up with a good product with the kind of big following we earned.”

Kim Chiu who plays Bianca has the same observation. “I am used to a life of struggle, I also lost my mother and I am very family-oriented. In that sense, Bianca and I are practically one and the same person. The teleserye also prodded me to be athletic and that’s one challenge I enjoyed working on.”

The really mean characters who stood out are Rigor Viloria (Daniel Fernando), his son Carlos (Jake Cuenca) and his wife, Isabel (Coleen Garcia).

Jake Cuenca. He lives up to the bad guy role even if he ends up a national villain.

Coleen says it was nice to be able to play someone mean but not so wicked and still be unpredictable. “I takes a lot of preparation because I have nothing in common with Isabel in real life. What I did was to recall people who don’t like me and when the camera started grinding, I become Isabel ready to get even with my detractors. The character has become an outlet for pent-up anger and I enjoyed it.”

Of course, Jake as Carlos de la Vega will always be remembered as the eternal villain.

Looking tough and villainous in this encounter, Jake says he has to be mean because that’s what is expected of him. “I am an actor. When being bad is what is called for, I gave it everything. When TV audiences started hating me, that’s an indication I played my part very well. I don’t act to get sympathy. Whether they love or hate me in the role, it doesn’t matter to me. Basically, I like the challenge of being bad. Not that I cannot play a good person. When that time comes, you will be surprised to see a sudden turn-around. Except that I don’t get that role anymore. But since I am in demand as a bad person, I can’t ask for more. When you are an actor, you just have to live up to the role. Even if you end up a national villain.”

Cast of “Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin.” They learned a lot from their characters.

Since the series started airing in May 2017, ILAI — directed by Dan Villegas and Onat Diaz — has captivated viewers nationwide with its consistent top rating.

It marked the screen reunion of Kim and Gerald who had equally good supporting cast namely Gina Pareno, Michael de Mesa, Dante Rivero, Nicco Manalo, Andrea Brillantes, and Grae Fernandez.

ILAI — aired in ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN HD (Sky Cable Channel 167)– ends January 26, 2018.

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Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

A cheering applause greeted the showing of the trailer of Coco Martin’s directorial debut, “Ang Panday” which is based on the Carlo Caparas story franchise.

Coco Martin during latest presscon. Trust and respect from cast and crew kept him going as director.

A distinct visual style is a feast to the eyes, but the uncommon touch is that the film travels effortlessly from fantasy to present-day reality. “I wanted this film to be in touch with present day life even if it is commonly associated with fantasy. I worked closely with my writer and I felt the project is better off with that personal concept which is strictly my idea. Everything has to be real. There are enough scenes that will thrill the kids, but I also made sure the adult moviegoers can connect as well.”

Still, he admits he does not know how to react when addressed as Direk Coco Martin.

More confessions: “Nothing came easy in this project and to top it all, I wore three hats as producer, director and actor. In the first, I am constantly signing checks to cover production expenses. In the second, I have to see to it the needs of the cast are taken cared of. Then I have to think about my role and relate to the rest of the characters. Then it just dawned on me, ‘Ganito pala kahirap magdirek at mag produce.’”

But he points out that when you are passionate about what you are doing, the difficulties are easy to overcome. “I don’t treat this latest film as plain and simple work. My heart is in it and so is my hard-earned money. I aim to produce something that will sit well with my audiences and not just to be treated as another blockbuster. I want a film that moviegoers can claim as their own after it hit the theaters. That is my idea of fulfillment as a director and not just to make money.”

Coco Martin with leading lady Mariel de Leon. She can act.

The actor said his directorial work was made easy with good people working around him. “Many years while working with Direk Dante Brillante, I realized I wanted to become a director later in my career. So, in every movie I did whether indie or mainstream, I observed people around me and find out how they contribute to the finished product. Of course, directing is a totally different work. But what made it easy was the people who are more than willing to give me endless support. I could feel the love as well the trust and respect in the set. They were all that I needed to keep me going as director. When I am not sure about one thing, I consult them like part of family. Tita Susan (Roces) was always behind me with some reminders. The children in the cast also contributed a lot. They have become good actors through the months of working with them in a teleserye. Of course, I forbid playing during the shoot. But after the take, they can do what they want.”

It was a big surprise that he realized his leading lady, Mariel de Leon, can actually act. “During the negotiation, I actually asked Tito Boyet (Christopher de Leon) and Tita Sandy (Sandy Andolong) if they can entrust their daughter to me in this project. They were very supportive. During the actual shoot, I realized Mariel needed very little coaching. She delivered like a real pro.”

Poster of ‘Ang Panday.’ Fantasy and reality in one movie.

On the whole, Direk Coco said he gave all he could to make this project really worthy the moviegoers’ time and money. “I did not go into this project to make me feel good as director. I did every frame of this film with the movie audiences in mind. They keep me grounded when I report to the set. I wanted to make sure everyone can relate and to have a good time in the theater. What they will see in my film is the sincerity and the desire to project the Filipino family as a fountain of inspiration in good or bad times.”

“Ang Panday” directed by Coco Martin opens in cinemas December 25. It stars Jaime Fabregas, Gloria Romero, Julio Diaz, Elisse Joson, McCoy de Leon and Awra Briguela, among others.

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TV Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

Sylvia Sanchez has visibly lost weight and beside her son Arjo, they look like brother and sister.

Sylvia Sanchez with son Arjo Atayde. She considers son a natural actor.

During their long break from their respective top rating teleseryes, mother and son bonded every way they could.

Arjo accompanied his mother do regular workouts and that partly explains Sylvia’s trim looks.

For another, she finds true happiness from within and that’s her real beauty secret if she can call it such. “I find peace and quiet just being with my husband and four children. If they are safe and happy, I cannot really ask for more. Of course, bashers will always be there to spoil your day. But I have found a good and effortless way to isolate them. There is no point arguing with them and dignifying their insecurities. I believe this is one is one way to be happy. To be content with what you have and to be good at what you can do. For me this is what counts. Then you try to be of help to others in search of their career fulfillment. This makes my life easy and fulfilling.”

Son says it wasn’t all very smooth growing up with a showbiz mother. “In high school, she makes sure I am home before 10 in the evening. That’s the time when all my friends are still out there enjoying. One night I missed the curfew. She knew I was afraid of ghosts. When I went home trying to get in very quietly, I found a very dark living room and suddenly, a flying lampshade hit the floor and jolted me. ‘You realize what time is it?’ she asked. Yes, she is a disciplinarian in that sense. No way you can break the rule.”

Sylvia Sanchez and Arjo Atayde with cast of latest teleserye, “Hanggang Saan.” They have to go beyond roles in real life.

Mother and son figure in the new teleserye, “Hanggang Saan” airing November 27 on Channel 2 and it is the first time they will have a long-term project in a major network.

Arjo is the celebrated villain in “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano” while Sylvia is the equally celebrated mother in “The Greatest Love” which won her TV Best Actress trophies one after another.

Also earning a round of best supporting actor trophies is Arjo who admits it’s a struggle being a good son in the new project while identified as hard-headed and rebellious PMA graduate in the top-rating Coco Martin teleserye. “It’s not easy portraying the good son after months of being a hated villain. I am still working at my character and hopefully the initial taping sessions show some improvements. Going into character is not easy as people think it is. As far as I am concerned, I need to work hard at it. In real life, I am playful and very makulit. I like to think I am a good son. But portraying son with your real mother on television is a totally different undertaking. That character must be different from my real-life role as son. And I need to find a way to react to my mother as character, not as your real mother. Of course, it helps that we are like that in real life. But once viewed by millions on national TV, viewers expect different treatment. They expect you not just to be good but to also do justice to the story. And we have to find a way to relate to the other characters who make up the story.”

At this point, Sylvia admits Arjo is the better actor than herself. “I remember attending the culminating program of an actors’ workshop where he is one of the participants. When I saw him act for the first time, I knew at once he has it. So, the next move with my husband was to give him all the support when he decided to enter showbiz. I wasn’t like him when I was just starting. I thought that my first acting vehicles were not anything I can be proud of. Truth to tell, I know that my acting as a beginner was quite shallow. So, I have to work hard to hone my craft every chance I have. I didn’t become the actress I am today just like that. I have to count years and a lot of heartaches before I felt I was already accepted. But with Arjo, I find him a natural actor. It’s not because he is my son. He also did his homework and that credit belongs to him.”

Sylvia Sanchez with husband, Arturo Atayde during the last Magic Ball. A happy family is all she wants for herself.

Direk Mervyn Brondial says it’s an advantage if the characters portraying mother and son are members of a true-to-life family. “For a director, that means you don’t have to work hard to motivate them to relate to the mother and son characters. With that settled, you have to make them relate to the story and to the other characters and that’s where the big adjustments begin. Because in this teleserye, the mother is not Sylvia Sanchez in real life. She is made of a complicated stuff because her character has a controversial past that threatens her and her family. And that is where you realize you are lucky to assemble a nearly perfect cast for this very unusual story of a mother.”

“Hanggang Saan” directed by Mervyn Brondial and Jeffrey Jeturian stars Teresa Loyzaga, Sue Ramirez, Ariel Rivera, Yves Flores, Marlo Mortel, Rommel Padilla, Nanding Josef, and Junjun Quintana, among others. It airs November 27 on Channel 2 after “Pusong Ligaw.”

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Concert Notes

By Pablo A. Tariman

A new side of classical guitarist Aaron Aguila will be seen by guitar aficionados when he introduces his compositions in a special concert called Crossroads at the Ayala Museum Thursday, October 12, 2017 (6:30 pm).

Aaron Aguila. Fulfillment in between teaching and performing.

“I started composing when I was in high school but it wasn’t the serious kind. I was just trying out new songs for a band as part of school projects,” he said. “I never took it seriously until we formed a group called Klasika Gitara in 2011 composed of mainly guitar majors from the UP College of Music. Its main aim is to encourage or discover new pieces for the guitar. But it only lasted for a year.”

He said his kind of composing isn’t really the type associated with the kind of output associated with venerated composers. “I basically compose now to reflect on my new stages as a person and as musician. Hopefully, the audiences will find peace and hope from my music whatever they are going through. My stuff is easily a mix of pop and classical elements and hopefully it will be a good transition for those who want to rediscover the classical guitar. Newcomers may just find guitar music intimidating but my pieces hopefully will be a positive bridge towards a serious appreciation of classical guitar.”

That he plays the guitar is an advantage when trying out new compositions. “They say it’s hard to compose for the guitar because it involves familiarity with its different tonal colors. You can’t discover and use them if you don’t play the instrument. But there are exceptions. Joaquin Rodrigo who composed Concierto de Aranjuez doesn’t play the guitar. It is really a very personal instrument and if you are composing and playing the instrument, it becomes a distinct advantage. As it is, we need new works for the classical guitar. Composing new ones is also a tool for widening the audience of classical guitar.”

Iqui Vinculado. Going solo after Triple Fret.

In the same manner that a classical guitarist teaching guitar is also an advantage. “The advantage is that you can impart your experiences with your student because you know exactly how it is like to be performing on the concert stage. You know how it feels like before and after the concert, you can easily figure out what technique to use and what will work for you especially if you are under pressure. In addition, you will be a good coach to your student.”

He likes music collaborations and his sharing the stage with Vinculado and the Guitar Guild is a case in point. “The Guitar Guild is a very promising and talented group. They are very enthusiastic and very eager to develop their skills as guitarists. I believe that they are offering something unique for the guitar community.”

The Guitar Guild won the top prize in this year’s St. Scholastica’s College Classical Guitar Competition (Ensemble Category).

Aguila will play a piece he arranged called Tatsulok for two guitars with Iqui Vinculado who is a prizewinner of the UST Conservatory of Music String Competition and one of the members of the award-winning guitar ensemble Triple Fret which won first prize in the Guitar Ensemble Category in the 2014 Tarrega International Guitar Festival in Klang, Malaysia and first prize in the 27th Japan Guitar Ensemble Festival 2015 in Tokyo, Japan.

His other endeavor is arranging Filipino 70s folk music for classical guitar. “Those folk music sounds good in a classical guitar and for that reason, it is very close to my heart. I do believe it is now time to focus on our own music.”

In the October 12 program, Vinculado will play Danza from Pasaje Abierto by Edin Solis and Three Movements from Batang Laro by Bayani De Leon.

Poster of October 12 concert. Classical guitar is alive and finding new audiences.

The Guitar Guild will play Bukang Liwayway by Victoriana Pacariem-Traquena as arranged by Aaron Ocalan,

Austin Tango by Roland Dyens, Cuban Landscape with Rain by Leo Brouwer and Philippine Medley No.2 by Alfredo Buenaventura as transposed by Aaron Vocalan.

Aguila will play Valse No.3 by Agustin Barrios Mangore, Invierno Porteno by A. Piazzolla and his own composition namely Reverie, Lay it down, Bagong Umaga, Kamusta Mahal, Salamat and his new arrangement of Bayan by Constancio de Guzman.

The October 12 concert is presented by the Independent Philippine Art Venture, Inc. (ipav) in association with Ayala Museum.

Tickets available at the Museum lobby before the concert.

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Concert Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

Singapore-born Kevin Loh, top winner of three international classical guitar competitions is all set for his Manila debut on Sunday, September 24 (6 p.m.) at the Alliance Francaise de Manille Multi-Purpose Hall at 209 Nicanor Garcia St. Bell Air II, Makati City.

Classical Guitarist Kevin Loh. Whiz kid of classical guitar.

Only 19 and a student of the Menuhin School in the United Kingdom, Loh is first prize winner of the 2012 Junior Division of the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Youth Competition, the 2014 8th International Competition for Young Guitarists “Andrés Segovia” in Velbert, Germany and the recently concluded 2017 34th Volos International Guitar Festival and Competition in Greece.

Loh made concert news in Singapore in his landmark 2013 premiere of Singaporean composer Bernard Tan’s Guitar Concerto with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra when he was only 14.

Kevin Loh after doing masterclass for Manila classical guitarists and rehearsing with flutist Owen Castro. Also in photo is Viking Logarta of Ipav, Inc.

Noted Dave Belcher of Classical Guitar Review: “There is certainly no dearth of great young classical guitarists out there. Any of the many international competitions will give you a taste of just how high the level of talent—in terms of technique and musicianship—is out there these days. It is a truly exciting time for the classical guitar. Among these excellent young guitarists however, that merit special attention is Kevin Loh. His YouTube page (under the name ‘Optichero’) has video performances that go back to when he was just five.”

In Germany, Kevin was invited to play at the prestigious Berlin Konzerthaus as part of the Yehudi Menuhin School tour commemorating Menuhin’s centenary. In Singapore, Kevin was invited to be perform the famous Concierto de Aranjuez with the local Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra in September, as part of their bi-annual series, “Singapore’s Gifted Young Musicians in Concert”.

Kevin Loh in Greece after winning another classical guitar competition.

Loh’s September 24 program includes Bach’s Suite in E minor, BWV 996; Diabelli’s Sonata in F Major, Op. 29 No. 3; • Ponce’s Sonatina; Schubert/Mertz’s Two Schubert Songs; Rodrigo’s Invocacion y danza; Albeniz’s Sevilla; Ravel’s Piece en forme de Habaner; Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango – 3 and Nightclub 1960.

Guest artist is Filipino flutist John Owen Castro.

Loh’s Manila concert is presented by Alliance Française de Manille (AFM) and the Independent Philippines Art Ventures (IPAV).

Tickets are available at AFM reception, and website (www.alliance.ph) and Ticket world at 891 9999. Ticket prices at P1,000 and P500 for students (AFM Members are entitled to a 10% discount on ticket prices).

Poster of September 24 Manila concert.

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Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

At 21, Khalil Ramos carries a certain sensibility so rare for aspiring young stars his age.

Khalil Ramos. As an actor, he wants to be a good storyteller.

He knows he has a lot more to learn and absorb, he knows the competition out there is stiff but for sure, he knows his place in the sun.

“I have come to terms with many things in life,” he confides. “But the choices are there for me to accept or not. I know what will keep me challenged and I know I am cut out for certain roles. It’s just a matter with working with the right project and the right director.”

And true enough, Direk Erik Matti finds in him the actor with the right attitude for the brand of films he has in mind.

Indeed he is promising enough to sign him as a contract star for Reality Entertainment of which he is one of the founders along with producer Dondon Monteverde.

Khalil with Tirso Cruz III in Honor Thy Father. The film with John Lloyd Cruz was a turning point.

Says Direk Matti: “People may find him cute but there is more to him than that. The eyes show a certain kind of guts which we don’t find in other young actors. For that reason, we are preparing him for roles that are larger than life and beyond the rom-com orientation.”

Khalil says he knows he has a good chance of becoming a good actor with Direk Matti overseeing him.

He can still remember the first time he saw Direk Matti and producer Dondon Monteverde. “It was during a fighting workshop for my first project under Reality Entertainment. I was at that time of my life where I was just beginning to seek new opportunities and expand my knowledge as an actor. That same year, Direk Erik, Sir Dondon and I worked together in Honor Thy Father. Being part of that film changed my perspective towards my craft. I became certain of my one true passion which is storytelling. I also became aware of the true capability of one’s mind. From then on, I started believing that I am capable of creating my own destiny. I knew that one day, I would be working with them on a much higher level.”

Khalil Ramos with co-actor in 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten . Subtle but no less intense.

Indeed he has with other projects one of which was Petersen Vargas’ 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten where he was nominated for Best Actor in the last Gawad Urian Awards.

The role is a delicate one and he has to figure in a sensitive tale of coming of age which had him coping with signs of early male attraction. His reaction shots while one the characters of one of his co-actors was doing a controversial auto-erotic scene was subtle but no less intense. It probably taught him that not everything about growing up is black and white.

For now, he is seen as the DJ who becomes a creature of the night in La Luna Sangre while waiting for the release of his other finished projects.

Khalil with director Erik Matti and producer Dondon Monteverde. He is eyed for roles that are larger than life.

He concludes: “I believe my generation has a lot to offer although we can learn a lot from the older generation. I think we are the most powerful generation and the most influential due to the onset of social media and high technology. But on my own, I know I can contribute a lot by becoming the actor I want to be. I want to be known as an actor who can be a good storyteller. For that reason, I can do anything to realize that goal.”

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Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

On a cloudy Wednesday afternoon with a hint of rain, one was not ready to see pure love and young love narrated from the point of view of an aspiring poet living in the shadow of Mt. Arayat.

Direk Jason Paul Laxamana with Bela Padilla and JC Santos. A wide segment of audiences can relate to this well-made romantic film.

As 100 Tula Para Kay Stella unfolds, you see the poet’s object of adoration metamorphose from special friend to object of pure love.

But the trouble is that Fidel (JC Santos) — the aspiring poet — is a typical rural good boy who wants to finish his studies before anything else. He is not one of those provincial Lotharios who believes in casual flings and certainly, he is not the kind to hop from one relationship to another.

On the other hand, Stella (Bela Padilla) is a free spirit, she wants to be a rock star and in the process, she tries one relationship to another hoping that somewhere along the new contacts, she will realize her dream.

She can see through men desiring her body but she has no qualms going to bed with anyone. Yes indeed — for as long as it would enable her to find the right contacts which will help her find a good break in the realm of rock music.

Meanwhile, Stella gets fascinated with Fidel, he who is clean and pure and yes, and so poetic. She finds his life as an aspiring poet quite interesting.

She invites him to the ladies’ room and he hesitates. It is wrong by his standard. But he relents and she realizes that he is not the kind who gives in to fleeting sex.

And as he goes through the process of offering 100 poems to her loved one, he goes through several scenarios that allowed him to see Stella’s relationship with her family.

After giving her a lodging for the night as she copes with family problems, he again turns down an invitation to go intimate. By his standard, it is wrong to take advantage of personal crisis to enjoy one-night stand.

Scene from 100 Tula. Superb storytelling and excellent acting.

Good writing and good casting provided the good contrast between the lead characters and their supporting ones.

There are enough scenes to make the character of the poet stand out. He stutters quite a lot but this was mostly psychological than physical. When he learns how to sing, his speaking voice becomes normal.

A wide segment of movie audiences will find this film unusually fascinating.

The older ones will most likely relate to the scenes with the characters still using cassette tapes. And the millennials ones will find that “cool” and quaint.

But the most revealing discovery is that actors Santos and Padilla are at their best in this latest romantic outing.

There is utter freshness in the way Padilla approached her character and Santos finally finds the most challenging role in his relatively new film career. In 100 Tula, he is real as a country boy and his rural virtues find their mark in his portrayal.

His most gripping scene towards the end called to mind the final section of Schubert’s song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin (Op. 25, D. 795) which is based on the poems by Wilhelm Müller. Santos’ portrayal of despair recalled the tragic story of the young man in Schubert’s song cycle.

As it is, the film ends as an idyllic, if, poignant tale of pure love, young love in the eyes of an aspiring poet.

By today’s standard, the poet’s prose are by turns juvenile, almost banal but the emotion it elicited from the characters is real and worthy of an acting award.

Poster of 100 Tula. Another refreshing tale of pure love, young love.

With highly focused storytelling from writer-director Jason Paul Laxamana, this film is another emotional rollercoaster with just two main characters gently teaching you how to laugh, fall in love, remember the past and sob in generous doses.

A superb entry in the ongoing Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, 100 Tula Para Kay Stella deserves it’s A Rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board.

It is now showing in cinemas.

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TV Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

Thursday last week, Coco Martin celebrated 100 weeks of FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano by visiting wounded soldiers at the V. Luna Hospital and distributing gifts and obliging with one selfie after another from one soldier-patient to another.

Coco Martin. After 100 weeks of the teleserye, 79 awards for its actor and creative staff.

“Their heroism was what inspired FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano,” he said. “It is but fair that I acknowledge them and bring cheers in the hour of their difficult moments. The teleserye has always been about the Filipino soldier in general and more about the Filipino policeman. I am happy I am able to acknowledge their brand of heroism through this teleserye which has notched 500 episodes on its 100th week.”

The actor met the press along with the new and old members of the cast of the top-rating teleserye to acknowledge their support.

“This is really very tiring,” he confessed as he revealed his present hectic life taping episodes for the teleserye and directing his debut film, Ang Panday. “I just realized directing is a totally different work from acting and directing teleseryes. Mahirap kung mahirap but I derive strength from my audience patronage. Their endless support gives the cast enough strength to go on no matter the difficulties.”

Indeed, there is a bit of fatigue in the actor’s profile but he derives strength from co-workers. “I don’t know how I came up with the present cast of Ang Probinsyano. Like when I was in Cebu, I saw this kid watching the taping and when I looked into her eyes, I knew she’d be a welcome addition to the teleserye. She became one of the kids based in a Cebu island where my character (Ricardo Dalisay) hid. How did I choose the other children? First, they must look like part of the common people. My teleserye is about an ordinary Filipino family holding on to old virtues of honesty and bravery and courage. What is special about these kids is that they all have common goal of helping their families at an early age. Awra ( McNeal Briguela as Makaria “Makmak” Samonte Jr.) is sending his father to school along with his siblings. But as tapings progress, I realize some of them no longer look like ordinary kids. When they are not taping, they begin to look like well-off kids with brand new clothes and shoes. I always remind them: remember the original characters you are playing. You were poor children in the story and you should not forget that when the cameras roll.”

Susan Roces and supporting actors plus the children of Ang Probinsyano. Strong following from the female and young viewers.

The old and new members of the cast have one thing to say about Coco.

Dante Rivero says Coco knows the production details but he also looks after the individual needs of his co-workers. “Everybody – heroes and heroines and villains in the story – is treated equally.”

Adds Jhong Hilario: “He treats everyone fair and square. But what is admirable is that he never forgets where he came from. That humble past keeps him grounded.”

After 500 episodes, Susan Roces as Kapitana and Lola Kap says she often wakes up wondering if she is still Susan Roces or the eternal Lola Kap. “After one year, I got so attached to my character I actually begin to think and act like one even behind the cameras. It is a life I cannot experience vicariously if I did not join the cast of Ang Probinsyano.”

Mitch Valdez who plays another Kapitana in another city barangay says it takes a lot of guts to portray the opposite of Susan Roces as barangay captain. “I am so wicked in the teleserye I have the feeling my character will be killed and I hope she remains alive. Otherwise goodbye to Ang Probinsyano.”

To which Coco reacted with a grin saying Mitch’s character will remain alive and she will keep her job a little longer.

The award-winning actors in the cast – John Arcilla, Jaime Fabregas, Angel Aquino, Sid Lucero, among others – say they do very little adjustments acting for teleseryes compared to their acting on film.

Adds Fabregas: “I pin down my character with his past and present and I stick to that. I take out the ‘borloloys’ that come handy when acting on film.”

Opines John Arcilla: “On film, you have to tone down a bit because you are no longer acting in a theater where you must project your voice to the last rows of the audience watching you. Some people think my acting in Heneral Luna is a bit theatrical. I have to. My character is larger than life and I can’t underplay my character. I love this role in the teleserye. It is the virtual opposite of my role in Heneral Luna.”

Since September 2015, FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano has kept its spot as the most watched TV program nationwide, hitting an all-time high of 46.7%, according to data from Kantar Media. It has remained unbeaten as viewers’ support remained strong throughout its run.

Thus far, the teleserye has received a total of 79 television awards for its actors and creative staff.

To what factors would the teleserye’s creative staff attribute the sustained audience patronage?

Coco Martin with the action stars of Ang Probinsyano. They keep the male viewers glued on the TV set.

Replied a creative consultant: “We see to it that the story remains focused on an ordinary Filipino family and how they cope with trials and tribulations. We also added new characters to make sure the male audiences can connect very well. That explains the presence of Cesar Montano, Lito Lapid, Victor Neri and now Jestoni Alarcon. The children of the teleserye keep young audiences glued every night. In short, we have something for everyone to make everybody happy.”

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Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

In this noonday encounter, Gerald Anderson is in high spirits and full of high hopes for his latest film, “AWOL” which is an entry in the forthcoming Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.”

Gerald Anderson with AWOL leading lady Dianne Medina. Mighty proud of his latest action assignment.

For the record, he admits it is a small-budgeted project but after watching the result of his hard work, he knows he has wrapped up a film which will add something new in his acting credentials.

“While watching it, I could feel the suspense that I hardly moved in my seat. Usually you don’t react anymore if it’s your own film. But I must admit this one is a damn good one and worthy of all our hard work. Everything I want to see in an action-drama is all there.”

AWOL only had 11 shooting days but the director, Enzo Williams, made sure every shooting day is well-planned and well-executed. “Direk Enzo had it all figured out in his mind and he comes to the set really prepared. Naturally, everything moves fast even as we made sure it was a perfect collaboration. It was a breeze working with him because he knows what he wants in a scene and he made sure he gets what he wants.”

He doesn’t want to talk about budget which the film doesn’t have compared to his mainstream projects. “This is an indie film but mind you it doesn’t look like one. The story is big, the execution is superb and it can compare with any good action picture showing in town. My fee? Of course I have to agree to an indie rate. In the first place, I didn’t accept this film to earn money. I just wanted to do a good film whether it makes money or not.”

Gerald Anderson with director Enzo Williams. The director always comes prepared and executes real fast.

Gerald plays the role of Lt. Abel Ibarra, leader of sniper team (Musang) scout rangers of the Philippine Army.

First order of the day before the shoot was to train with honest-to-goodness scout rangers. “I have to absorb everything in the script but I also have to listen to real life soldiers on whom my character is based. During training breaks, I get to talk to them about their life as soldiers and mind you, their stories are enough materials for another action-drama film. I have to absorb their stories really well because what they narrated are true to life events similar to the character I am playing. Of course my role is a far cry from my rom-com roles. The training is really hectic and intense. It’s tough and the difficulties are for real. Here you see people sacrificing a lot for their country and they have no complains. Their stories are really sources of inspiration for me. They actually helped me shape the cinematic character of Lt. Ibarra.”

But midway into the training, Gerald found out one of the rangers who trained him died in the Malawi siege. “That was my first encounter with tragedy involving soldiers. It took some time before I was able to accept soldiers live and die just like that. We had fruitful and happy moments in the training and suddenly one of them is gone. It sure affected me a lot. I probably incorporated some of his traits in the character I was playing. But I don’t want to make a big thing out of this. I don’t want to use his short and tragic life to promote a film. But he sure inspired me more to do my best in this film.”

Also in the cast are Dianne Medina, Bembol Roco, Raymond Bagatsing and Jeric Raval, among others.

Bembol says Gerald is a promising action star. “He is young but has the instinct and the guts of what it takes to do action projects. On top of that, he is a good actor.”

Gerald Anderson during the presscon for AWOL. The film is his personal tribute to soldiers who died in the Marawi siege.

For now, Gerald enjoys the freedom of being part of an indie project. “What we lack in big budget we cover up with big passion to make this film really worth watching. This is a film that that will connect you to the plight of soldiers fighting for their country. Their struggles are real and by portraying the life of one of them is the least I can do to pay tribute to their heroism.”

“AWOL” directed by Enzo Williams opens in cinemas August 16.

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Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

“Sleepless” is a highly revealing film from a young director with an inner voice all his own.

Prime Cruz with Gerald Anderson who stars in his first Star Cinema project, “Can We Still Be Friends?”

The film unfolds quietly, the transitions have minimal use for music and in the end, the story shines like a raw diamond with very little need for polishing.

The screenplay of Jen Chuaunsu captures the mood, the unguarded moments of the millennials and towards the end, you see a peerless story of pure love wrapped in incredible friendship.

This young director shows us that real passionate love is not all about skin exposure and bed calisthenics but more about ordinary people connecting with people with their own share of loneliness.

Needless to say, this is a highly sensitive, if quiet and stunning film from a millennial director Prime Cruz.

He is only in his late 20s but he can pass for a shy member of the cast of a teenybopper movie.

But his early credentials show he is made of a mature creative stuff with a mindset that goes beyond teenybopper concerns.

Aside from his first feature film, “Sleepless” which won the NETPAC Jury Prize for Best Picture at the Quezon City International Film Festival, Prime also bagged the Best Director award for his second output, “Ang Manananggal Sa Unit 23-B.” Moreover, his short film, “Kung Ang Ulan Ay Gawa Sa Tsokolate” won the Best Short Film citation in the 2016 Cine Pilipino Film Festival.

Prime Cruz with writer-girlfriend Jen Chuaunsu. A comfortable creative team.

In this pocket presscon which he shares with his writer Jen Chuaunsu who happens to be his girl-friend, Prime doesn’t see any problem working with someone personally close to him. “In this set up,” he says, “we can be so honest with each other and we can be so candid about what we want to say about anything about the project. That is an advantage because when you are working with someone you don’t personally know, you have to watch your language and you sometimes have to be less honest just to be polite just to avoid harming anyone. Yes, we are in a relationship and it works well with us.”

The project came about after a Cine Panulat writing workshop conducted by writer director Jun Lana and Jen came up with a story that was just right for their first cinema baby.

But with his experience then limited to being segment producer of a major network, he had to work fast to live up to his film debut.

He recounted his birthing process thus in FB: “I didn’t know much about making movies when we made ‘Sleepless’. Having spent most of my post-college life working as a segment producer for television, I knew little about film language, editing narratives, and directing actors. Everything I knew about making movies came from some film classes way back in college.”

He wanted to back out when the Quezon City film fest people confirmed they officially qualified for the festival. He felt he didn’t know enough and he thought he would ruin the beautiful screenplay that his girlfriend wrote. He advised her that they should just ask a more experienced director to do it.

Prime Cruz and Jen Chuaunsu with mentors Jun Robles and Perci Intalan. Everything started in the writing workshop.

But Jen would not have it the other way. He has to direct it himself because she felt he was the right director for the project.

He has to work fast to get a fast lesson on elementary filmmaking.

Quickly, he watched videos from every frame of a painting and learned a lot from video essays from vimeo as he could. He watched his favorite films all over again and talked to people for advice. “I showed my visual treatment to my mentor. And I closed my eyes and remembered all the time I spent at Mini-Stop, because it was late and Starbucks was too expensive. I remembered staring outside of moving trains, watching the city go by. I remembered feeling lost and out of place in manila, but learning to live with it because I had no other place to go. I remembered the loneliness and sadness, and learning to suppress it if I wanted to survive.”

As it turned out, all his hard work and highly personalized preparations paid off. His debut film won best picture and it did sit well with cineastes.

His debut film yielded not only good impressions but it gave way to other bigger projects as well.

He is now working on a Star Cinema project “Can We Still Be Friends” starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Munoz and yet another one for Regal Films “The Debutantes” and soon another one for Via Films.

How far can he go to accommodate the new set of producers associated with mainstream films?

To be sure, he knows that he has to adjust to another mindset in filmmaking.

He is sure of only one thing: he will do his best, he will have the mainstream audience in mind but he will make sure his voice as a filmmaker is not disregarded. “I started as a brain-stormer for some projects and I know their audience. I will do what to me is good for the project. But I will also let them know how I stand as a director with my own vision of the film.”

“Sleepless” starring Glaiza De Castro, Dominic Roco and directed by Prime Cruz is now showing at SM Cinemas (North Edsa, Megamall, Mall of Asia, Southmall, Fairview, Bacoor, Cebu and Iloilo) on Friday May 26 as part of the FDCP’s Cine Lokal Series.

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