MANILA, Philippines – “Ang cool nito!” (This is cool!), exclaimed the elusive author Bob Ong in his message read in the February 6 press conference for his novel turned film ABNKKBSNPLAko?!
Although the bestselling author has been keeping his indentity a mystery, Bob Ong had earned a following for his social commentary, hidden under the guise of witty anecdotes about Pinoy life.
His first book ABNKKBSNPLAko?! (Aba, Nakakabasa Na Pala Ako?!) has now come to the big screen – a trip from the blissful days of elementary to the angst-filled times of high school, all the way to the defining moments in the grown-up world.
First love never dies?
The story of Roberto Ong (Jericho Rosales) is set way after the last school bell has rung.
The narrative traces the story of the 30-something teacher who is faced with the dilemma of wanting to attend an elementary school homecoming, but having little confidence to face his successful batchmates.
Insecure of how his life turned out, he decides to skip the celebration – but friends Ulo (Vandolph Quizon) and Portia (Meg Imperial) aren’t having it. In the end, he’s convinced by the thought of seeing a certain “special someone” (Andi Eigenmann), who was an integral part of his growing-up years.
Roberto backtracks to his earlier days, recalling memories of his escapades as a school boy and his unforgettable romance with that “special someone.”
But more than Roberto’s quest for a long lost love, the main highlight of the film is the endearing bond between childhood friends, as seen in his adventures and misadventures with Ulo as well as his somewhat love-hate relationship with Portia.
Watch the trailer here:
We all have our own story
The film was lauded by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, earning an A from the organization’s Cinema Evaluation Board for its “engaging and refreshing” take on nostalgia.
In a press conference about the film, the actors and director Mark Meily agreed that the film had the power to transport older viewers back in time. The viewing experience was different for each person, said the director.
He said viewers remember their own experiences while watching the film, in turn, creating a version of the story that’s unique to them. “We might be looking at the same movie, pero ‘yung story niya, ‘yung effect sa ‘yo nag-iiba.” (We might be looking at the same movie, but the story and effect on the viewers vary)
Eigenmann noted that anyone with friends can easily relate to the film.
“Kung nabasa mo ‘yung libro, maiisip mo ‘yung mga nangyari sa ‘yo nung nakaraan… it’s about elementary days, high school days, puppy love, insecurities… so ang daming makakarelate.” (If you’ve read the book, you’ll think of what you experienced in the past…it’s about elementary days, high school days, puppy love, insecurities…a lot of people will be able to relate.)
Let comedy come naturally
Though Rosales and Eigenmann are actors best known for serious and dramatic roles, with the already witty and humorous script, they said the funny came naturally.
“The movie’s all about fun, hindi siya slapstick, ‘yung situation ‘yung nakakatawa talaga eh,” said Rosales, who found that comedy is more than nailing the perfect punchline or making the ugliest faces. It’s all about understanding the scene and working as a team, he said.
“Walang mahirap na eksena basta naiintindihan mo, comedy o drama. So para sa akin ganoon lang ‘yon. ‘Wag mong isipin na ikaw yung mag-ca-carry ng eksena, lahat kayo.” (No scene is hard so long as you understand it, whether comedy or drama. So for me, it’s just that. Don’t think you’re the only one carrying the scene, everyone is.)
Smilarly, Eigenmann, who described her last film Momzillas as a slapstick kind of comedy, said all she had to do for ABNKKBSNPLAko?! was to put herself in the situation and understand the character’s views. She said that she was confident the film will have the audience laughing effortlessly.
But even Quizon, who grew up in the world of comedy, admitted that there was a need to keep his acting techniques fresh. He narrated how Meily once told him his acting style had become dated.
With a chuckle, Quizon narrated how Meily told him, “Ang luma ng acting mo” (Your acting is old-fashioned), after his reacting with an adlib in one scene.
Homework from Bob Ong: Go write!
Many people think critical stories aren’t fit for mainstream cinema, said Bob Ong in his message. But the author said a critical mind is exactly what Philippine cinema needs.
With his belief in the power and responsibility attached to positive media, the author urged the public to write and to contribute stories for the enrichment of Pinoy cinema.
“Sa pananaw ko, kung mapanuri ka, higit kang obligadong mag-ambag ng materyal na makakatulong sa ikabubuti ng pelikulang Pilipino.” (In my opinion, if you’re critical, you have an obligation to contribute material that can help in the betterment of Filipino movies.)
“Gusto ko lang ipaalala kung may mga kwento kayong gustong isulat kung hindi kayo abala sa mga day job niyo, ituloy niyo lang,” he said. (I just want to remind everyone, that if you have a story you want to write while you aren’t busy with your day job, go ahead.)
“Walang imposible.” (Nothing is impossible.)
Bob Ong’s ABNKKBSNPLAko The Movie’ opens in cinemas on February 19
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