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Unspoken vow

Erich Gonzales and Enchong Dee: They possess the charm that the characters require

Film review: Paano Ko Sasabihin

MANILA, Philippines - Public reception can be as unpredictable as chancing upon true love and lasting friendships. When Erich Gonzales’ partnership with Enchong Dee in the ABS-CBN afternoon series Katorse clicked with soap fans, it was sweet surprise for both network moguls and the two Kapamilya stars. To think that when the project was on its first few weeks of airing, Erich’s main leading man was supposedly Ejay Falcon. As it turned out, audiences liked better sultry Erich’s chemistry with Enchong.

The ways of fame are indeed strange. On the Erich-Enchong tandem’s third project, the indie love story Paano Ko Sasabihin (they also headline the early primetime soap Tanging Yaman), the relative novices are enmeshed in a plot that is less convoluted than the many twists and turns of their two previous starrers. That doesn’t however make their roles in Paano Ko Sasabihin any less challenging.

On the surface, Paano Ko Sasabihin may be light and heartwarming but it raises some very valid issues, one of which is the plight of people with disabilities. Erich and Enchong play two young people who manage to make each other believe that they are both speech and hearing-impaired.

This love charade is the brainchild of writer-director Richard Legaspi. After finishing a filmmaking course at the Asian Film Academy in Pusan, South Korea, Legaspi went on to make acclaimed short films like Ambulancia and Hand-Painted Feathers. “Our house in Malabon,” says Legaspi, “is near a school for the deaf. Everyday on my way to work, I get to bump into deaf and mute pupils.” The end-result of these random encounters was Paano Ko Sasabihin which garnered three nods (Achievement in Editing, Audience Choice Award and Special Jury Citation) at the last Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival held November 2009. Currently playing in selected SM theaters nationwide, Paano Ko Sasabihin becomes the first theatrical distribution venture of the cable channel Cinema One with SM Cinemas.

In it, Erich plays a young miss whose kid brother is speech and hearing-impaired while Enchong portrays a young teacher in a school for the deaf-mute. Direk Richard says that his lead actors are heaven-sent. “They possess the charm that the characters require.”

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The movie, however, is more than a tale of the small, seemingly harmless lies people make up. Enchong’s Mike, for one, is saddled with a dark past which prompts him to withdraw from the world. Direk Richard will be happy to learn that the feeling is mutual. Enchong is equally grateful for the chance to do Paano Ko Sasabihin which he considers manna from above. “I’ve been wanting to do an indie film for the longest time. Kuya Piolo (Pascual) and Kuya John Lloyd (Cruz) have been telling me that if I wanted to sharpen my skills as an actor, I should do an indie film. The problem was that no indie filmmaker seemed interested to get my services.”

Erich and Enchong did not take the biggest acting challenge of their young careers sitting down. Aside from a sign-language instructor assigned to help them learn the skill, the two did their own homework. Shares Erich: “We observed different people who are deaf and mute to get a deeper feel of what their lives are like.” Enchong researched on the Net, regaling us with this bit of information: “There are different types of deaf-mute people. There are those who know how to lip-read, those who can utter certain words and then there are those who cannot hear anything totally.”

In the process of working together on one venture after another, it is but natural that Enchong and Erich have developed close ties. The guy appreciates the girl’s upfront nature. “She doesn’t hold back on what she has to say about things,” says Enchong of Erich. “She doesn’t hide her feelings.” Never mind that his leading lady’s pagiging totoo sometimes gets her into trouble in an industry where graciousness, whether genuine or not, is paramount.

“It’s not only Erich who is the target of negative issues,” defends Enchong. “There are also issues hurled at me. Yes, Erich does get affected. The tendency is that she becomes more cautious. She tends to keep quiet to lessen chances of catching other people’s ire. That’s not her.”

As Enchong has pointed out, he himself has grown used to talk questioning his gender. “Ever since I started in showbiz, that’s what always comes out,” he laments.

But then Enchong and Erich should both be reminded that once heretofore “ordinary mortals” agree to become public property, it is tantamount to subjecting themselves to scrutiny. Well, if it’s any comfort, they at least have found a friend in each other. Erich recites their common vow: “We will always be there for each other.” And it is no mere lip service. 

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