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Piolo Pascual talks about making 8-hour film with Lav Diaz, John Lloyd Cruz

MANILA, Philippines – Working on a Lav Diaz's Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby for the Sorrowful Mystery), was a different experience for popular actors John Lloyd Cruz and Piolo Pascual – Hele is 8 hours long, because of the director's one-take scenes that last several minutes at a time.

John Lloyd wasn't at the movie's press conference on Wednesday, January 13, but reporters were able to speak with Piolo about what it was like working on the film with John Lloyd.

"We were talking a lot. Actually, this brought us closer," said Piolo of John Lloyd. "Everynight we'd hang out, we'd call, with direk (director) Lav, and bibigyan ka ng eksena, bibigyan ka ng script, [at sasabihin] 'ito yung aaralin mo.' So talagang – sabi nga ni Angel [Aquino] (and you'll be given a scene, you'll be given a script, [and they'll tell you] this is what you study. So really – as Angel Aqino said) – you have to be on your toes."

Lav Diaz's Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis film preview day #Masterpiece #LavDiaz #TEN17P #ComingSoon2016 A photo posted by Paul Soriano (@paulsoriano1017) on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:33am PST


Piolo added, "But the experience itself was really memorable, something na talagang masasabi ko hindi mo na mauulit, kaya lahat kami... sobra yung commitment, sobra yung commitment sa pelikulang ginawa namin (you can really say that it can never happen again, that's why all of us... we had a lot of commitment, we had a lot of commitment to the film we made)."

In the movie, Piolo plays the character Crisostomo Ibarra from Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere, and later plays Simoun from El Filibusterismo – Ibarra in disguise.

John Lloyd, on the other hand, plays Isagani, a younger character in El Filibusterismo. "Actually pinatanda ako dito, si Lloydie pinabata (Acually, I was made to look older, while Lloydie was made younger)," shared Piolo. The two got to spend more time together during Piolo's last days of shooting.

"We recited 'Mi Ultimo Adios' together," said Piolo, referring to the poem Rizal wrote before his death. "So sobra yung immersion namin sa characters namin. Babasihin mo kung ano yung binigay sa yo, bahala ka (We were really immersed in our characters. You'll read what you're given, then it's up to you) how you're gonna understand it. So more than it being a showcase [of talent] it's more what you can give, it's what you can put in as an actor."

Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis #MainCompetition #66thBerlinale #PhilippineCinema #LavDiaz #TEN17P A photo posted by Paul Soriano (@paulsoriano1017) on Jan 13, 2016 at 2:55am PST


For all of Piolo's praise about the experience of shooting the movie, it almost didn't happen. At first, there was trouble getting Star Cinema, the production company under the ABS-CBN network that the actors are a part of, to agree to letting them do Hele.

"It wasn't a hesitation, it's more on the work that was at hand. Yung kailangan namin – siyempre ay ASAP ako, kailangan ko mag taping, meron akong pelikula, so siyempre yung mga obligasyon natin sa istasyon (We had to – of course, I had ASAP, we had to tape things, I had a movie, so of course we had obligations to our station)," explained Piolo, who stars in the afternoon variety show, ASAP.

Star Cinema's decision to let them do the film was given at the last minute.

TEN17P just wrapped up shooting Lav Diaz's Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis. Making this film has made me love what I do even more. Thank you Lav for unconsciously teaching me how to tell a story and Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make this film possible. #TEN17P #HeleSaHiwagangHapis #ArtFilm #LavDiaz #LavWins #ComingSoon #MasterClass #NeverStopLearning A photo posted by Paul Soriano (@paulsoriano1017) on Jul 26, 2015 at 4:36am PDT


Now that the film is competing in the main competition of the Berlin International Film Festival (better known as Berlinale), Piolo says that this is their reward for all the difficulty they went through.

"It's our redemption after doing the film, after shooting for so many days, so many months, na matanggap ka sa isang prestigious event, prestigious film festival, yun na yung glory ni [producer] Paul (Soriano) and for direk Lav, na parang, 'Wow, buti nalang ginawa namin 'to, buti nalang ginawa namin.' (that we were accepted at such a prestigious event, prestigious film festival, that's the glory of [producer] Paul (Soriano) and director Lav, that 'Wow, it's a good thing that we did this, it's a good thing we did.) So it's really a privilege," said Piolo.

He added: "So whatever we had to go through with ABS, it was well worth it, kasi (because) it's beyond us, it's beyond being just actors. I mean, you know I've been to Cannes [Film Festiva], I've been to a lot of festivals pero, to represent your own country at a festival like this, it's beyond you already."

Piolo starred in Erik Matti's On The Job, which screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Hele, which deals with Philippine history, literature, and mythology, will get its world premiere at Berlinale on February 18. The awards night for the festival will be on February 21. Meryl Streep is the president of the festival's jury.

What do you think of Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, starring Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz, being an entry in Berlinale? Let us know in the comments! –

Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.