When Baseco Compound residents first saw Gina Pareño in their midst, they were extremely excited and kept calling her "Lola Gets," the name of her character in the ABS-CBN primetime show Tayong Dalawa.
In an exclusive interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) last Sunday, July 19, the veteran actress narrated her experience while shooting the indie film Baseco Bakal Boys. (Click HERE to read the PEP review of this film)
"Noong una, ina-ano ako ng crowd. Pero nung bandang huli, parang taga-roon na rin ako. Apat na ang nagawa ko dun. Dalawang Maalaala Mo Kaya episodes, itong Bakal Boys, 'saka isa pa," said Ms. Gina.
She also shot some scenes of Tayong Dalawa in Tondo (where Baseco is located).
In this film directed by Ralston Jover, Gina is cast as a Tausug woman searching for her 10-year-old grandson. The film focuses on bakal boys, children who dive for scrap metal in the murky waters of Manila Bay. They then sell the recovered metal to junkyard shops that buy these by the kilo.
What difficulties did she encounter while doing this film?
"Una, mahirap magsalita ng Muslim. Pangalawa, bilang hindi ako marunong lumangoy, takot na takot ako kasi baka biglang tumaob or maaksidente. Sa awa ng Diyos, hindi naman. 'Saka mahirap 'pag nasa gitna ka ng laot. Skyflakes lang ako nang Skyflakes," she recounted.
As a Tausug character, she had one scene wherein she said a Muslim prayer to Allah. In another scene, she had to ride a small banca to go to the parola (lighthouse) where her grandson was last seen alive.
How long did she shoot in Tondo?
"Two weeks ako sa Baseco. Kabisado ko na! Feel ko, taga-Baseco na ako. Natutuwa ako, malaking bagay na nandiyan si Ms. Bessie [Badilla] kasi siya ang sumusuporta sa amin. Best friend ko 'yan," said Ms. Gina proudly.
Ms. Bessie used to be an actress in the sitcom Eh Kasi Babae before she transferred abroad. She co-produced Baseco Bakal Boys with Albert Almendralejo even though she has been based in Connecticut, USA for the past few years. Her flight from London arrived in Manila on Sunday afternoon and she immediately went to the 6:15 screening of the film at the CCP.
What did Ms. Gina like about the project?
"Makikita mo itong mga bata. Nadiskubre ko lang yun nung nagte-taping kami ng mga mahihirap na role para sa Maalaala Mo Kaya. Dun ko nakita ang mga batang naghahanap-buhay na matitiyaga sila. Pero smart sila kasi bata pa lang marunong nang magka-sistema.
"Natuwa ako na makasama sila sa pelikula kasi malaking bagay yun na sisimulan nila. Nabigyan sila ng opportunity."
How did she deal with the dirty surroundings?
"Siyempre, nandiyan yung [possibility na magka-] amoebiasis ka, wala kang magagawa. Hugas ka lang nga kamay, ng alcohol. Later on, nakakalimutan na rin maghugas ng kamay. Sanayan lang pala. Masasanay ka na rin. I like Baseco now!" she exclaimed.
DEATH IS A RELIEF. During the gala night of Baseco Bakal Boys, producer Albert pointed out: "Ang tema ng pelikula, sinasabi ng pelikula na ang buhay sa Baseco ay painful and death is a relief. Very tragic and very sad, but I want everyone to take the message of hope. What we're showing to you is what is happening at Baseco. But I want you to go home and say, 'there is something that can be done in Baseco.'
"It is important that each and everyone of us should do something to make a difference in the lives of our fellowmen—whether in Baseco or in our neighborhood. We have teamed up with Gawad Kalinga and other institutions for the children metal divers. A couple of NGOs are putting up a scholarship program for the children of Baseco."
Directed by Ralston Jover, Baseco Bakal Boys is one of the nine full-length films vying for the Cinemalaya-NETPAC Award.
This marks the directorial debut of Ralston, who is best known for writing the screenplay of Kubrador, Tirador, and Foster Child. He tapped real-life metal divers to be first-time actors in his indie film and all 15 of them were present at the gala night last Sunday.
The main characters are Meljon Ginto, 10, who plays the youngest kid Utoy; Edgardo Olano Jr., 16, who plays Bengkong; and Ian Villaruel, 12, who plays Potot. Thirteen-year-old Vincent Alvin Olano was chosen to play Bungal, the missing grandson of Ms. Gina.
The awarding ceremony of Cinemalaya Cinco will take place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines this Sunday, July 26.
Click HERE to view the schedule of the films competing in the fifth edition of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.