It's the year 2000 and Fernando Poe Jr.'s star continues to shine brightly in the new millennium.
His last movie, Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko, was 1999's biggest blockbuster. He now welcomes the new year with another surefit hit, Ang Dalubhasa, for Millennium Cinema.
"I'm optimistic that this will be a good year for local films," says Da King. "Judging from the good box-office results of the Metro Manila Filmfest, I'd say things look very encouraging."
The recent holiday season has been a very hectic one for FPJ.
"All my relatives from the States came home to spend Christmas here," he says. "That's the request of our late mom (Mrs. Bessie Kelly Poe), that we welcome the coming of the new millennium together as a family. Lahat ng mga kapatid ko from Los Angeles and San Francisco, including their kids, came home. My daughter Grace also came with her two kids, Bryan, who's six, and Hannah, who's one year and two months. All in all, there were 28 of them, so it was truly a joyous holiday season for all of us. Some of them were housed in our home in Antipolo, while the others stayed in our home in Greenhills. It's a grand Christmas reunion for the whole clan."
How does his grandkids call him, Grandpa?
"No," he laughs. "They call me Papa Ronnie. Bryan is allergic to milk so we cannot feed him any dairy products. He can't eat milk chocolate like other kids. I'll miss them when they leave. They're here for more than a month."
While FPJ was attending to his relatives, he was also busy with the shooting and post-production work for Ang Dalubhasa, which he not only stars in but also directs under his pseudonym, Ronwaldo Reyes.
"This is the second time for me to play a doctor on screen. The first one was in Apollo Robles, directed by Manong Gerry de Leon. I was a doctor there who was also a boxer. In Dalubhasa, I'm a military doctor naman. Dalubhasa means two things: that neurosurgery is my speciality as a doctor, and that I'm also an expert gun enthusiast."
Whatever happened to the other project he started last year, Dugong Busabos, which pairs him with Daisy Reyes and Glydel Mercado?
"We're half-way through with it but I felt there was something in the project which isn't right, so I decided to shelve it. Sometimes, you have to follow your instincts. It's not like the movie I did with Juday. First shooting day pa lang, I could feel the good vibes that it will be a hit, and I was right."
He feels the same way for Ang Dalubhasa, which has three parts.
"The first part concerns the revenge angle. My entire family was killed by hired assassins headed by Johnny Vicar. That's why in the film's trailer, you'd see me cornering Johnny, telling him that I waited for eight years for my showdown with him. The second part is about my being a doctor in Cebu. Maritoni Fernandez, a socialite there, plays my girlfriend, and her niece, Cris Villonco, is very close to me. Cris confides her dream of becoming a good singer someday to me. When it turns out that she has brain tumor, I operate on her. She's well on her way to recovery but she mysteriously dieds after going into a coma. I blames myself and this sends me into a deep depression. Eventually, it will be discovered that her death is not really my fault, but that of a rival doctor, Ricardo Cepeda. The third part of the movie shows me moving to Manila. I become a drunkard and refuse to practise my profession. This is where I meet a social worker, Nanette Medved, who helps me put my life in order again."
He feels very lucky to have Nanette and Cris in the cast.
"Nanette is a damn good actress and she deserves a second chance. Also, may kissing scene kasi kami rito, just like in our first two movies, Dito sa Pitong Gatang and Isang Bala Ka Lang 2," he laughs. "I'm sure it's just fine with her husband because our family names are somewhat similar."
Nanette's husband is Chris Po.
How would he rate Cris as an actress?
"She's very good for someone who's acting in her very first movie. On a scale of 10, I'd give her an 8.5. She also sang the theme song of the movie, Ikaw, and she did a very good job of it. Sharon Cuneta and Regine Velasquez have used the song before in their own movies, but Cris has a totally new and different interpretation, at ibang-iba rin ang pagkakagamit ng kanta in Ang Dalubhasa. My only complaint about Cris is that she kept on giving me chocolates that's why I gained eight lbs. while shooting this movie."
We notice that he rides a horse once again in some scenes in the movie, making it look like a western. It's been quite sometime since we last saw him on a saddle.
"That's true. May mga nagre-request kasi na mapanood uli akong mangabayo. And the horse that I got in this movie was so big and tall that I have to use an applebox to get on top of him."
Once and for all, it's about time he sets things straight about the rumor that he will run for President after the term of his good friend, President Erap Estrada. Is he running or not?
"Since 25 years ago pa, so many people have already been trying to persuade me to run. First as Mayor of Quezon City, then as governor of Pangasinan, and later, even as a Senator. I have only one answer to all of them: politics is not for me. A lot of people think I'm running because they saw me on TV last year while I was visiting some patients in a hospital. They thought I've started my campaign. But I've been doing that all my life, helping the needy. I guess it was just magnified by the media because I was with the President's daughter, Jackie, at that time."
Erap's approval rating plunged five percent to a new low. Does he give his friend advice on how to improve his government?
"I don't give advice, I just make suggestions. Some people think the President and I always see each other. Not at all. At the most, once a month lang kaming magkausap. Usually, sa phone pa. I get a lot of invitations to state dinners in Malacañang, but I seldom go. Some people even thought he was assigning me to a cabinet position after he won the presidency, but he'll never do that because he knows na hindi ko talaga gusto. It hurts me when he is censured, lalo na kung alam kong hindi totoo. Honestly, I think that deep inside, he is trying his best to do a good job and he's now doing his best to improve his rating, so let's give him another chance. I don't know about the other politicians around him. Most of them were introduced to me only during the campaign. Basta ako, I helped him during the campaign, but I never asked for any favors from him in return."
What FPJ wants to do is make more movies this year.
"I want to be more productive and perhaps do up to three or four films this year. Right now, I'm already developing the scripts for my next projects. There's a project on the exploitation of miners in Diwalwal Mining in Mindanao. There's an action-comedy, Ayos na ang Kasunod, which will pair me with Ara Mina. Then, there's the sequel to Isusumbong with Judy Ann Santos, Magpaalam Ka Muna sa Tatay Ko."