John Arcilla: Paulo Avelino is a good choice as Goyong

by Maridol Ranoa-Bismark
Sep 5, 2016

John Arcilla is happy that Paulo Avelino was chosen to play Gregorio "Goyong" del Pilar, the young general who bravely fought American forces during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American war.

"The role of Goyong will fit Paulo," says John, who played General Antonio Luna in the highly-acclaimed biopic about the hero of the Philippine-American war.

John talked exclusively to PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) minutes before he went on stage for the first ever History Con at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

John thinks Paulo's good looks qualify him to portray the young general from Bulacan who made women fall for him because of his bravery and handsome face.

John and Benjamin Alves (as Manuel Luis Quezon) will also appear in the biopic. The rest of the actors will still be chosen via auditions.

"If they start the film before Heneral Luna's assassination, I might have a participation in Goyong. If not, I can be one in one of the flashback scenes. I'm not so sure," explains John.

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The veteran actor adds that Goyong is one of three films Artikulo Uno's Fernando Ortigas and EA Rocha are lining up following the box office and critical success of Heneral Luna.

The period film about the feisty Luna was chosen as the Philippines' official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of this year's Oscars.

The third is the biopic of the Philippines' second president Manuel Luis Quezon.

John clarifies, however, that cameras will only start rolling for the Quezon film if Goyong does well in the box office.

"It depends on the viewership. We're trying to get the support of those who watched Heneral Luna. If the earnings [of Goyong] will suffice, another movie of that magnitude will happen."

John is all for making sequels of historical films.

"It's educating the audience in a fun way, in way they like. It's teaching your audience to support this kind of genre. At the same time, the audience is discovering the story of their icons, their heroes."

HARDSHIPS WHILE DOING HENERAL LUNA. Making these kinds of films is not easy, though. John recalls facing three big challenges on the set of Heneral Luna.

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The first had to do with the general's death scene, where John had to be covered in sweet syrup for four days.

"The dummy didn't work, so I had to play dead all the way. The assassination scene took four days to shoot. I gargled the syrup so it will trickle down my body every time they [the American forces] shot my character," John recalls.

The syrup was sticky, slimy, and uncomfortable. John's teeth bore the damage of too much exposure to sweet substances.

Thankfully, the damage was temporary, and all of John's teeth remain healthy.

The second challenge required learning to ride the horse Heneral Luna used in his many fight scenes. John had to learn the ropes in 20 days.

Thanks to his mother, John did it in only 10 days.

"My mother used to ride a horse when she was 11 years old. I told myself that if she can do it, why do I have to worry about it?"

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As shooting progressed, John was in for one more "horse challenge." The horse he was riding refused to run after noise from a nearby pickup scared it out of its wits. John reveals that production people had to appease the horse before it finally agreed to run in one of the fight scenes.

John and those who saw Heneral Luna will agree the challenges were nothing compared to the film's public impact and significance. It was screened in New York and Los Angeles.

It allowed John to earn the Male Breakout Star of the Year trophy at the recently-concluded PEP List Year 3.

It has inspired patriotic fervor among moviegoers and continues to inspire other independent producers to come up with quality epic films.

It has proven that you can't put a good film down, whether or not big stars are part of the cast.

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