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Lito Lapid’s defining (cinematic) moment

() - December 20, 2002 - 12:00am
Did you know that it was not Lapu-Lapu who killed Ferdinand Magellan but Raha Humabon?

That's what director Willy Mayo, scriptwriter Jerry Tirazona, Pampanga Gov. Lito Lapid and the rest of the staff of Lapu-Lapu, found out while doing the movie. They are banking on research bearing the UP Department of History’s stamp of approval. As such, they are standing by their beliefs with the certainty of someone who knows the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

Besides, Lapu-Lapu, official entry to this year’s Metro Manila Filmfest, was produced to the tune of P35-M, an amount no producer will dare shell out if he's not willing to stand by his research.

Lito himself looks at the film as a definitive one where his long-standing acting career is concerned.

"It’s my biggest film. If Cesar (Montano) has Rizal, I have Lapu-Lapu," Lito says categorically.

It is his legacy to future generations of Filipinos, something he’ll gladly let his yet-to-be-born grandchildren watch over and over.

After all, the governor did more than just fight Magellan and his fellow Portugese adventurers in climactic battle scenes typical of a Lito Lapid movie. The dyed-in the-wool Pampangueno also plunged into the Herculean task of speaking in Visayan, Lapu-Lapu’s dialect.

It was, to say the least, a struggle for Lito.

"Doing action scenes is a regular thing for me. But delivering long dialogues in Visayan is something else. It’s totally strange to me," he says.

Non-Visayan speaking moviegoers, do not despair. The producers made sure the movie has Tagalog sub-titles.

And even if Lapu-Lapu’s exploits as a leader whose authority lay on a government of laws, not men, were shown, Lito and company made sure they depicted the human side of the spear-wielding, shield-bearing hero as well.

Enter Joyce Jimenez, she of the smooth olive skin as Bulakna, Lapu-Lapu’s wife, and you’ll see Lapu-Lapu sans his weapons of war.

"We will showcase tradition – the rites of courtship, marriage, even the honeymoon," states Lito.

But before red-blooded males start thinking Scorpio Nights II all over again, Lito reveals, "This time, Joyce will not disrobe at all. My lips never even touched hers." He turns to Joyce, who flashes an all-knowing smile.

Turns out she is mighty proud moviegoers will see her, not for her glorious body, but for her plain and simple acting this time. As the fairest maiden in the village and the wife of the ruler of Mactan, Joyce maintains a sedate profile throughout, the better to win more young, female fans over. Obviously, she doesn’t mind taking over the role originally assigned to the newly-married Assunta de Rossi.

Besides, brown-skinned Lito and the morena Joyce look good together. Assunta’s loss was Joyce’s gain.

So impressed is Lito with Joyce that this early, he predicts she will win a Best Actress award for the role.

His leading lady returns the compliment, saying she marveled at Lito’s discipline on the set.

Director Willy Mayo describes how harsh working conditions were: "Shooting starts as early as 7 a.m. Lito is on the dot for the tattoo session (on the arms, thighs and legs). At 8 a.m. 300 of the 3,000 extras are trained on the fight scenes and other things that must be done. The rest move spontaneously. Just imagine how many people there are on the set at any given time and you’ll know what I mean."

Lito explains further: "Hindi mahulugan ng karayom ang lugar sa dami ng tao. It becomes uncomfortable because of the heat. Couple that with occasional rains and lack of water because of our far-flung shooting location, and you have a difficult situation indeed."

These did not faze Lito and the rest of the cast, which also includes Vic Vargas as Raha Humabon, Gloria Sevilla, Isabel Lopez, Jeric Raval, Dante Rivero and Julio Diaz. They see vital fragments of a nation’s storied past unfold before their eyes. They see lavish sets – like the village of Lapu-Lapu and Humabon – which have henceforth been donated to the Subic Museum. A 600-meter tall Spanish galleon was recreated within three months to bring back visions of seafaring adventures intent on conquering new lands for the King of Spain. The re-created galleon, which can accommodate more than 100 people, and rests on a tugboat that can carry as much as 30 tons, was also donated to the museum.

"I dedicate this film to the Filipino people," Lito speaks for everybody involved in Lapu-Lapu, which he hopes will get a highly-recommended rating from the Education Department.

He knows he is talking, not only about today’s generation, but succeeding ones, who can learn lessons from the past so they can move forward to the future with the wisdom of the centuries behind them.

ASSUNTA BEST ACTRESS DANTE RIVERO AND JULIO DIAZ DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY DIRECTOR WILLY MAYO LAPU LAPU-LAPU LITO LITO LAPID RAHA HUMABON
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