How ‘Apag’ lost Aljur Abrenica — and gained Coco Martin

Production companies that have entries in the upcoming first summer Metro Manila Film Festival are in a rush to hold premieres/media previews for their entries. They earnestly believe that the write-ups in the papers and in social media will surely help drum up interests for their films.

We were at the media conference and preview for Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko, the biofilm of hit songwriter-singer Rey Valera, a few days ago at Gateway mall, Cubao. On Tuesday night, 28 March, we attended a similar event for Apag, directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza and topbilled by Coco Martin, Jaclyn Jose, Lito Lapid and Gladys Reyes, with the special participation of Gina Pareno, Shaina Magdayao and Joseph Marco.

Apag, according to Mendoza, is how Pampangueños pronounce the word “hapag” referring to a dining table. He himself is a Pampangueño from San Fernando, Pampanga.

The film had to use a Pampango title since the story is set in Pampanga and deals with the behavior of two families faced with a vehicular accident that eventually leads to the death of the father of one family. The culprit is a member of the other family.

In the foreign film festivals where Apag has been shown, the movie ends happily in a food binge. In the version mainly meant to be shown in the Philippines, the film ends differently, memorably.

‘APAG’ is an official entry to the Summer Metro Manila Film Festival.

At the presscon that followed, Mendoza divulged that the unforgettable ending was suggested by Martin himself, and the Cannes-winning director fully adopted it.

Mendoza further admitted that Martin was just an emergency replacement for Aljur Abrenica, who sent his rejection of the role when all the shooting schedules had been set.

Mendoza immediately called Martin to let him know what happened. The actor sensed right away that he was being offered the role and confided to Mendoza that his only free time was the forthcoming Christmas break from his taping for FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano (two years ago). Mendoza instantly decided he would rework the schedule around Martin’s availability.

“At a certain point, I realized it was a blessing in disguise that Aljur turned down the role,” said Mendoza.

Apag is co-produced by Mendoza’s own company, Centerstage, with Hongkong International Film Festival Society.

Apag premiered at the BUSAN International Film Festival and has competed at the Warsaw International Film Festival, World Film Festival of Bangkok, Vesoul International Film Festival and Asian Film Festival (South Korea).

The First Metro Manila Summer Film Festival runs 8 to 18 April nationwide.


The production to beat

Ateneo BlueRep’s Zsazsa Zaturnnah, The Musical… ‘Yun Lang is the production to beat this year.

Director Missy Maramara and her artistic staff made the Doreen Fernandez Blackbox Theater look and feel like the Rajah Sulayman Theater in Fort Santiago where actors turn up on a makeshift second level to sing their hearts out. The actors also sing and dance up a storm on a runway going into the audience area, and even on a low staircase at the foot of the stage.

It could be that all Ateneo BlueRep members who wanted to perform were given the chance to. They all had the energy for rowdy characters.

photograph courtesy of SOLAR PICTURES
COCO Martin and Jaclyn Jose in ‘Apag.’

The costumes, including those for Zaturnnah, Ada, Queen Femina and her Amazonistas, as well as Ada’ s beauty parlor assistant Didi, were loud and colorful. The only one with subdued outfits was the shy and practically innocent Dodong.

It was Elian Dominguez that I got to watch last Sunday night, and he was very boyish and very credible in playing a character who could fall for a gay guy to be his sweetheart. (It’s likely that his alternate, TV-film hunk Juan Carlos Galano, would have a less-than-virginal take on Dodong.)

The show’s production and costume design were by Tata Tuviera, with choreography by Franco Ramos, and set and technical direction by Adrian Ungriano.

That Sunday night, Ada was played Adrian Lindayag, Didi by Bradly Hao and Queen Femina by Anyah de Guzman. They were all captivating.

Kim Molina is playing Zsazsa Zaturnnah in all performances, including matinees. Molina is an enchantress whose voice and energy never fails from her first to the last scenes, her singing always emotional and her spoken lines snappy, well-enunciated.

Also impressive is Kyla Rivera as Aling Britney, though she gets to sing her soaring song only toward the last part of the musical.

Maramara made Ada and Zaturnnah appear together many times to show how they feel for each other despite their separate genders. The director made both of them credible and admirable characters — two sides of the same compelling persona.

This Saturday’s 3 p.m. show features Phi Palmos (Ada), Bradly Hao (Didi), Juan Carlos Galano (Dodong) and Kakki Teodoro (Queen Femina).

The Saturday 7 p.m. show will see Almond Bolante playing Didi, while the rest of the cast remains the same.

For the Sunday shows, the 3 p.m. staging will have Lindayag as Ada, Joshua Cabiladas as Didi, JM Servilla as Dodong, and Anyah de Guzman as Queen Femina.

The closing show (Sunday, 7 p.m.) will have Phi Palmos as Ada, Almond Bolante as Didi, Juan Carlos Galano as Dodong and Kakki Teodoro as Queen Femina.

Go watch the last two nights of the musical, so you’ll know why it’s the production to beat this year.

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