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MANILA, Philippines – An ailing father and his wife with a thief of a son and a cigarette vendor daughter – as well as a blind, pregnant woman who converses with Christ. These are the motley set of characters in Paolo Villaluna’s Pauwi Na, his first film in 7 years.
In Pauwi Na, set to be released on July 14, this struggling family decides to make their way from the slums of Metro Manila back to their hometown in the province, but not without a few bumps along the way.
In reality, making the movie wasn’t easy either. Filmmaker Paolo and his cast – including Meryll Soriano, Cherry Pie Picache, and Jerald Napoles, to name a few – went through a lot to make the film happen and to get the characters just right.
Paolo and Meryll – who plays the said blind pregnant woman – sat down with Rappler on Wednesday, July 13, to talk about how this movie about family and faith came to be.
Here are some tidbits that they shared about Pauwi Na.
The movie has a motley cast of characters traveling from bustling Metro Manila to a far-off province.
Pauwi Na is about a struggling family who wants to return to their hometown from Metro Manila. Because of their financial struggles, they try to make the journey on a pedicab.
The dysfunctional family includes an ailing father who is a pedicab driver, his wife, his son (a thief) and his daughter (a cigarette vendor). Coming along for the ride is the thief’s wife who is blind, pregnant, and hallucinates about Jesus – plus, the family dog.
The movie was inspired by a news clip from the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the early 2000s.
A real-life family wanted to travel Leyte from Manila by pedicab because of lack of funds.
“But in my film, unnamed ang province,” said Paolo. “Para siyang paradise, para siyang utopia. It’s an imagined paradise of the family.”
(But in my film, the province is unnamed. It’s like paradise, it’s like an utopia. It’s an imagined paradise for the family.)
Sam Pinto, Bea Alonzo, Andi Eigenmann were also considered to play Meryll Soriano’s role, Isabel.
Because the movie went through a few studios too, other actresses were cast to play Meryll’s role. On choosing Meryll for Isabel, Paolo said: “For the film, I needed actors. I needed people who make the characters alive and not just play the characters.”
It was a struggle to find an “askal” to play the part of their family dog.
A lot of trained dogs are “foreign” or purebred dogs, but Paolo needed an “askal” (stray dog) for the film, a mixed breed dog that looked like it could have grown up on the streets of Metro Manila.
Askals, Paolo said, are much harder to train, and are more expensive to hire than foreign dogs.
This is Paolo’s first film in 7 years.
Paolo was supposed to work in advertising for a year to save up but ended up extending his stint to 7 years.
When asked why, he answered: “Well, one, advertising has its own set of challenges for a filmmaker na maganda din (that’s also good). Imagine being able to tell a story in 30 seconds.”
He added that the compensation made him stay too, as he had to help his family out with expenses.
The story was 10 years in the making
Even though he had a hard time finding the proper budget for the film, Paolo still pushed through with it. He got a seed grant of P1.5 million from the ToFarm Film Festival and borrowed another P1.5 million to fund production.
“I really just wanted to tell the story of this family,” he said. “I think it’s something that has been brewing in my heart for the past 10 years and it’s something that I really wanted to say, whether it affects culture, hindi (no), it’s not that objective. I just really wanted to tell the story.”
Paolo edited the film himself on his laptop.
Aside from not having the budget to hire an editor, Paolo said that he also believes that it’s “natural” for directors to edit their own films.
“First rule of directing is that you should direct with directing in mind. The finished film is already in your head. So actually, habang nagdidirect ka, nakaedit na siya (while you’re directing, it’s already edited), so I only find it natural that you edit it yourself, because you want the film to come out the way you imagined it,” said Paolo.
Meryll on character Isabel: “My most challenging role” to date
“Of course naive ka, bulag kasi eh (you’re naive, because you’re blind). Wala kang (you don’t have) visuals of what this world is,” she said.
“And I think that was the most challenging for me, because there are some scenes where I have my friend Jesus Christ, that I can see, and I’m not supposed to have an idea of what Jesus Christ looks like or other things. So yung (the) cancellation of the visuals of everything while I’m seeing Jesus Christ is the most difficult for me.”
Isabel is a metaphor for blind faith.
It was a challenge for Meryll to act blind with her eyes open, and she and the director had to study how blind people really act and move around in order to portray the character realistically.
Still, it was important for Isabel to be blind, said Paolo, because she had no choice but to believe other people when they described her surroundings.
Meryll “needed” to do the film
“When I read the script, sabi ko lang, ‘I cannot not do this story,'” recounted Meryll. “It’s a story about a family, a Filipino family to be exact.”
Asked what she meant about “needing” to do the movie, she said, “Self-expression. With [Paolo, it was] as a director, as a filmmaker. As an actor, ganoon din… And it just really came at the right time for me. So it’s a story about family, it’s a story about struggle, it’s a story about hardship, it’s a story about being hopeful, and nandoon ako sa buhay ko (I’m at that point in my life).”
Pauwi Na is set to be premiered on Thursday, July 14, 9 pm at SM Megamall. The movie will run for the rest of the week at SM Megamall and SM North EDSA.
Will you be seeing Pauwi Na in theaters? Let us know in the comments! – Rappler.com