Director Jason Laxamana explains why he chose Arron Villaflor to be the lead star of Astro Mayabang


"Napili ko si Arron dahil isa siyang Kapampangan [from Tarlac], kaya niyang magsalita ng Kapampangan, his rising popularity especially with his group Gigger Boys, his honed acting and dancing, and his charming register on screen," says director Jason Paul Laxamana about Astro Mayabang lead star Arron Villaflor (in photo). This indie film will be screened this November as a finalist in the 6th Cinema One Originals digital film fest.


Bidang-bida na sa pelikula ang isa sa Gigger Boys ng ASAP XV na si Arron Villaflor.

Ito ay sa Astro Mayabang, isa sa pitong entries ng Cinema One Originals 2010, isang indie film festival na produced and organized by Creative Programs, Inc., isang entertainment subsidiary ng ABS-CBN. Now on its sixth year, gaganapin ang nasabing filmfest sa November 10-16 sa Shangri-la Mall Cinemas sa Mandaluyong City.

Produkto si Arron ng Star Circle Quest, kunsaan nanggaling din ang iba pang Kapamilya young stars na sina Erich Gonzales at Jason Abalos. Super happy si Arron dahil sa dinami-rami ng young actors sa kasalukuyan, siya ang napili for the title role ng Astro Mayabang, na first lead role niya.

Ilang pelikula na rin nakita si Arron katulad ng Mamarazzi ng Regal Entertainment bilang bading na anak ni John Lapus.

Sa Astro Mayabang, co-stars ni Arron sina Megan Young, John Lapus, Hermes Bautista at Marco Morales.

ARRON MAKES THE GRADE. Sa panayam ng PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) sa writer-director-editor ng Astro Mayabang na si Jason Laxamana sa pamamagitan ng e-mail, naikuwento nito ang characters ng kanyang cast at kung paano nabuo ang istorya.

"Si Arron Villaflor ay gumaganap na Astro, isang insecure guy na may obligasyon sa sariling mag-promote ng Filipino pride sa pamamagitan ng isang paraang alam niya—ang pagbili at pagsuot ng mga Pinoy pride clothes at paraphernalia," simula ni Direk Jason.

"Napili ko si Arron dahil isa siyang Kapampangan [from Tarlac], kaya niyang magsalita ng Kapampangan, his rising popularity especially with his group Gigger Boys, his honed acting and dancing, and his charming register on screen.

"Hindi lang ito ang kauna-unahang indie film ni Arron, pero first starring role niya sa pelikula, kaya enthusiastic and excited siya. Nung una, worried ako sa gentleman at sweet image niya, dahil yung lead character na si Astro ay eksaktong opposite—makulit, mayabang, tactless, nakakairita, may masamang ugali, gano’n.

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"Meron ring mainit na love scenes with a girl and kailangan niyang mag-brief lang."

Pero ayon kay Direk Jason, nabigyan daw ni Arron ng justice ang role.

"The fusion of Astro’s bad boy character and Arron’s good boy personality create an interesting friction which I am certain viewers, especially his fans, will be charmed [with]," aniya.

Si Megan Young naman ay gumaganap sa role ni Dawn, isang Filipino-American girl na pilit na dini-discover ang kanyang "roots" at lumapit kay Astro upang turuan siya ng Pinoy culture.

"Nakatulong ang panonood ko kay Megan sa Sigwa sa Cinemalaya bilang Filipino-American girl din, kaya she was perfect. Megan’s StarStruck origins [2005] and Arron’s Star Circle Quest roots [2005] will definitely make an interesting combination."

KAPAMPANGAN. Nasa pelikula rin ang komedyanteng si John Lapus, na tubong Candaba, Pampanga naman.

"John plays Mama Suk, the pretending-to-be-religious queen whose fetishes are Kapampangan Holy Week penitential rites. From Mamarazzi to Mama Suk, he gives life to the character as if it’s his own creation, and I am happy with the results.

"I am also surprised how prepared he was for the movie. He is, indeed, a professional.

"Hermes Bautista [of Pinoy Big Brother Double Up], also a Kapampangan, plays Raffy, the owner of the store where Astro buys his Pinoy pride paraphernalia. His down-to-earth personality fits the character description well aside from his ability to speak Kapampangan fluently, being a native of San Fernando, Pampanga.

"Marco Morales plays Iggy, the cousin of Dawn who seems to reject his Filipino-ness. Marco’s Filipino-Australian mannerisms and speech make him perfect for the role. No, he is not going to be naked in this movie," dagdag ni Direk Jason.

Last year, binansagang "Frontal Nudity King" si Marco na lumaki sa Sydney, Australia.

ROOTS. Paano nagsimula ang concept ng Astro Mayabang?

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Kuwento ni Direk Jason: "March last year, pagkatapos kong i-produce at idirek ang isang serious short film, yung Dusing [tungkol sa sexual harassment in high schools], I wanted to return to where people think I am good at: comedy. Yun kasi ang sabi nila.

"Nakita ko ang rising nationalistic fever sa mga kabataang Pinoy. Ine-express nila ito sa maraming paraan tulad ng pananamit, accessories, necklaces, at electronic identities tulad ng avatars, profile pictures, gano’n.

"Gusto kong gumawa ng pelikula that would study and question this sudden so-called ’national pride.’ Dahil sa observation ko, it’s becoming superficial.

"But what I intended to do back then was just a short film called The Pinoy Pride Squad, which involves five main characters, who monitor people’s nationalism. They attack and ’correct’ people na nagsasalita ng masasamang bagay tungkol sa mga Filipinos, or sa mga hindi nagpapakita ng kahit na kaunting pride sa pagiging Pinoy.

"Hanggang sa dumating ang Cinema One Originals. I decided to do a spin-off ng isa sa mga characters na ginawa ko for The Pinoy Pride Squad. Ito na nga si Astro. Kaya ayun, pinanganak ang Astro Mayabang," salaysay ni Direk Jason.

May personal attachment ba sa kanya ang script ng Astro Mayabang?

"Hindi very personal ang content ng script. It is more of a social commentary. What makes it personal is the context," sagot niya.

"It’s my first full-length movie and it’s my first time to work with stars. Bilang cultural worker na may advocacy sa promotion and development of Kapampangan culture and language, the project as a whole is personal, too, in the sense that the dialogues are in Kapampangan and the setting is in my hometown. It’s a great contribution to my advocacy."

SUICIDE ATTEMPT. Rebelasyon din ang sinabi ni Direk Jason na muntik na niyang hindi mahabol ang deadline para sa submission ng scripts sa indie film fest—dahil nagpapagaling pa siya mula sa pagtangka niyang mag-suicide.

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"Hindi ako nagkaroon ng panahon para maayos ang script to beat the deadline of submission, because I was then recovering from a failed suicide attempt. Dala yun ng extreme depression at outright betrayal ng isang taong pinagkatiwalaan ko...

"Pagkatapos ng failure ng attempt na yun, nag-rush na ako para tapusin ang script at nagsulat ako kung ano man ang pumasok sa utak ko. Araw na ng deadline yun nang sakay ako ng bus from Pampanga, on my way to ABS-CBN to submit my script and nagta-type pa ako sa laptop ko habang nasa biyahe.

"Nang pumasok ang script ko sa top 30 and then to the Final 7, halos mapaiyak talaga ako. It’s as if God didn’t allow me to die to make my film and continue what I love doing!" pahayag ni Direk Jason.

DIRECTOR’S PROFILE. Tubong Angeles City, Pampanga ang baguhang indie filmmaker na si Jason Paul Laxamana. Siya ay 23 years old lamang at kasalukuyang fourth year college student sa UP Diliman, taking up broadcast communication.

Ang batambatang indie director ay isa ring feature writer ng Central Luzon Daily at dito niya ikinuwento ang kanyang background sa entertainment industry.

"Nagsimula ako as a volunteer production assistant sa isa sa mga episode ni Direk Jeffrey Jeturian sa Maalaala Mo Kaya. Then, I worked as P.A. and stage manager sa mga events ni Direk Maryo Delos Reyes.

"Nagtrabaho rin ako as script continuity sa A Love Story [of Direk Maryo] and as script continuity uli and local coordinator sa Serbis [of Direk Brillante Mendoza] na na-shoot sa province namin, Pampanga."

Nakagawa na rin ng maraming Kapampangan short films si Direk Jason, pati na documentaries at music videos na ipinalabas sa kanilang probinsiya at sa Manila.

Ang kanyang Balangingi (short film) ay nagwagi as ETC Best Short Film sa 1st Philippine Digital Awards last year. Ang kanyang Cool Me Up, Please! ay naging finalist sa Video Category ng World Bank International Essay Competition sa France noong 2009 din.

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Coordinator din siya ng Pampanga block sa taunang Cinema Rehiyon Film Festival. Kung kaya’t masasabing sa mga Kapampangang mahilig sa arts (film, in particular), kilala na sa kanilang komunidad si Jason Paul Laxamana.

"Astro Mayabang involves several of my townmates and I am happy that the movie is beginning to look like a community project," saad ni Direk Jason.

"Malaking tulong rin ang college friends ko. Karamihan sa staff ko ay either college classmates or org [organization] mates. Hindi ako sure kung paaano ko sila masusuklian for their support. Nevertheless, I promise this film to be worth their sweat and money," saad niya.

A FILM FOR EVERYONE. Ano naman ang masasabi niya tungkol kay Arron sa kauna-unahan nitong lead role?

"Arron is inspiring as well. He may not be treated in an indie film set in the same level of convenience as with when he is in the mainstream scene, where he has always been involved, but I am glad he shows no sign of irritation or protest. All I can promise him is that Astro Mayabang will be worth his sacrifices and effort."

Ano ba ang personal goal o objective niya sa kanyang pelikula?

"Gusto ko na ang Astro Mayabang ay maging isang indie film which all people from walks of life can appreciate, hindi lang yung few educated viewers. Hindi ako naghahangad ng anumang awards, although winning some would be good.

"All I want is for this movie to spread like wildfire among the Filipinos here and abroad. The film festivals are not my target, but the audience," aniya.

Bukod sa Astro Mayabang, ang iba pang entries ng Cinema One Originals 2010 ay Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria Kirschbaum directed by Remton Zuasola; Ishmael directed by Richard Somes; Third World Happy directed by EJ Salcedo; Dagim directed by Joaquin Pedro Valdes; Tsardyer directed by Sig Sanchez; at Layang Bilanggo directed by Michael Angelo Dagñalan.

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