Jake Macapagal finds his place in ‘Metro Manila’

B. Allie Tah
The versatile actor switches roles from talent coordinator to lead actor in 'Metro Manila'

CHAOS. Jake Macapagal and Althea Vega are husband and wife who find a bitter life. Photo: Captive Cinema Distribution

MANILA, Philippines – His background in theater has honed Jake Macapagal into one of today’s engrossing, thoroughly watchable actors in Philippine cinema today.

His performances have been widely praised as memorable, in such indie films as “Compound,” “Foster Child,” and “Posas.”

It’s no surprise that Jake is once again reaping acclaim (and attracting opportunities abroad) for his lead role in Sean Ellis’ “Metro Manila,” which won the Audience Award (World Cinema category) at the Sundance Film Festival.

READ: ‘Metro Manila’: Film poetry

“Metro Manila” also stars John Arcilla, Althea Vega, JM Rodriguez, and Ana Abad-Santos.

British filmmaker Ellis is renowned for such works as his short film, “Business Trip,” and his short-expanded-to-full-length, “Cashback.”

Here’s an excerpted interview with Sean Ellis:

Jake was originally involved in the film’s production — behind the cameras. As the talent coordinator, he helped assemble the cast for “Metro Manila.” 

But Ellis saw the lead character Oscar Ramirez in Jake, who eventually led the cast himself.

“Oscar is a former soldier who became a farmer in the province. He dreams of a better life for his family, but everything does not turn out the way as planned when they move into the city,” Jake says of his role.

In this sense, “Metro Manila” serves to echo Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.”

But 40 years since that film classic, the city has since expanded into the complex, grid-like metropolis it is today, with immigrants like Oscar and his family finding themselves caught in the relentless cycle of its frenzy. 

Brocka’s ‘Maynila’: A film that lives

One of the film’s crucial scenes was shot at the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces where Jake’s character works as a farmer. This postcard scene is a sharp contrast to the slums of Metro Manila where he relocates.

“Doon pa lang makikita na nila ang pagkakaiba ng katahimikan at kalinisan sa probinsya compared sa magulo at maruming tanawin sa Manila,” explains the actor.

(Here, you will see the contrast between the natural tranquility of the countryside, compared to the chaos and squalor in Manila.)

“We just want to show how gritty life can be in the big city, most especially for people coming in from the provinces.”

Seasoned theater and film actor Arcilla plays a complex villain in this film, as an ex-cop who exploits Oscar in his illicit enterprise.

“The movie also shows how desperate people can get to achieve the life they aspire to,” said Jake.

“Kapit sa patalim” — the standard Filipino expression since associated with Brocka’s 1985 film — “ang ginagawa nila para lang makuha iyon at wala silang pakialam kung sino ang masaktan at masira ang buhay.” 

(These people clutch on knives to get what they want, regardless of the lives they hurt or destroy.)

“Oscar here has a choice. To follow his conscience or to do something that he knows is not acceptable.

“Nasa atin pa rin ang huling desisyon.” (The choices we make are still up to us.) – Rappler.com


‘Metro Manila’ will be shown in theaters on October 9.

Here’s the film’s trailer: