Rain clouds loomed over Metro Manila yesterday, March 26, but in Bagac, Bataan, the weather turned out to be bright and sunny with clear blue skies. Members of the press were able to enjoy the warm weather during the set visit organized by Annabelle Rama for the stars of the GMA-7 primetime show Zorro.
A bus rented by Annabelle, the managing director of Royale Era Entertainment and Artist Management, carried 34 people to the site, which is located approximately four hours away from Manila. The passengers included select members of the press as well as grandchildren of Annabelle as well as their yayas.
After eating brunch in Balanga, Bataan, our group arrived at the Acuzar compound in Bagac where men and women could be seen walking around in their native camisa de chino and Filipiniana dresses. Zorro director Dominic Zapata pointed out that the land they were renting from Mr. Jose Acuzar, chairman of the board of New San Jose Builders, includes a portion of the mountainside, a long stretch of beach, and a river where a simple bamboo bridge spanned a small river.
At around 3 pm, Richard Gutierrez warmly greeted the press by saying with a smile: "Welcome to Universal Studios!" PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked how he feels to be on the Acuzar compound where turn-of-the-century buildings stand proudly to this day.
"Pag nandito kami, nalilimutan namin na nasa modern era na pala tayo ngayon. Hindi nag-e-exist para sa amin ang Manila," declares Richard.
When one is standing in the cobbled streets of the Acuzar compound, it's easy to see how the modern world can melt away in the heat. The sprawling 400-hectare boasts of ancestral homes and buildings that were transferred brick by brick to this Bataan coastal estate. Some buildings have been standing since the 1900s but they appear as stately and ornate as ever.
This setting is perfect for the primetime show about a bold caballero who avenged the helpless against tyrannical bureaucrats. Through his many reincarnations, Zorro has become a household name widely known for his outstanding fencing skills, horseback riding abilities, and his trademark black cape and mask.
On that day, PEP was able to observe two indoor scenes: Father Felipe's (Ricky Davao) incarceration before he was scourged for being wrongfully accused by someone. The same prison was used to detain the bellas composed of Bubbles Paraiso, Bianca King, Maureen Larrazabal, Sheena Halili, Paloma, and Shiela Marie.
There was also one outdoor scene featuring Richard and Robert Villar seated inside a horse carriage while Antonio Aquitania served as the driver of the carriage.
Since some of the old houses in the Acuzar compound have dark histories, it's not surprising to learn that there are spirits that occupy these old houses. For instance, there is one structure that used to be a morgue in Malolos while another is famous for being a house where a family was massacred in the past.
Bubbles Paraiso recalled one incident wherein they were shooting a scene in the plaza when she noticed that a lonely figure was watching over them from above one of the balconies of the houses. The young actress then admitted that she has always been able to see these spirits but she finally accepted the fact that she had a third eye only three years ago. She also revealed that her mother has the same gift while her brother, actor Paolo Paraiso, is able feel their presence but he cannot see the ghosts. In Zorro, Bubbles plays Magda, one of the bellas who will seduce Silverio (Elvis Gutierrez).
For her part, Michelle Madrigal revealed that the cast members bond with each other by taking turns riding Richard's jet ski. Apparently, the actor traded in one of his motorcycles to buy this personal watercraft, which he sometimes uses to get to the location from the Montemar resort where they are billeted. Michelle even pointed out that Eddie Gutierrez, who plays Governor Luis Aragon, had so much fun riding the jet ski as well.
Direk Dominic excitedly told PEP that viewers have a lot to look forward to in Zorro in the coming days. They were already building the festive area for two circuses that will add color to the town of Angeles (the fictional town where the story of Zorro is set) and a pirate ship that will actually be built by the production staff.
Zorro airs weeknights on GMA-7 Telebabad right after 24 Oras.