Bong continues to fly high

- Mario E. Bautista () - December 18, 2003 - 12:00am
Other action stars no longer do movies but Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. continues to be very active in the big and small screen. He was the only action star last year with three releases, all of them big hits. These are Mahal Kita, Final Answer with Rufa Mae Quinto, Kilabot at Kembot with Assunta de Rossi, and Agimat, Anting-Anting ni Lolo, one of the topgrossers in the Metro-Manila Filmfest. On television, his Idol Ko Si Kap remains the number one sitcom on GMA 7 and has won him a Best Comedy Actor trophy at the Star Awards.

In the June Manila Filmfest this year, his Bertud ng Putik also did well at the tills. He is now the only top action star with an entry in the coming Metro Manila Filmfest, Captain Barbell, where he plays the title role.

"It’s the first time for me to play a flying komiks superhero and one thing I realized is that it’s not easy," he sighs. "I’ve done a lot of action films with difficult stunts that I did without any double, but doing flying scenes is really something else. A harness is wrapped tightly around my midsection and when the crane pulls me up in the air to show me flying, it’s like the upper part of my body is being strangled because the blood flow is obstructed. But even if you’re suffering while the camera is rolling, you have to smile and pretend that everything is okay with you. The moment they put me down, I feel like a drunk because you can get dizzy while doing those flying scenes. And it takes about three hours of shooting just to perfect to those flying scenes. In one sequence, I was hanging from the harness from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day. Add to that the fact that it’s so hot inside my rubberized costume, so it’s really no joke to play a superhero. When you feel like answering the call of nature, you better just restrain yourself from going to the toilet because you have to get out of your costume to do it."

Despite his complaints about the difficulties he encountered in making the film, he is not regretting that he accepted doing Captain Barbell, a big-budget co-production between Premiere Productions and Viva Films. "Even my kids are excited to watch it and see me as a flying superhero, so this is my gift not only to them but also to other kid viewers this coming Christmas season," he says. "In fact, my favorite sequence shows me flying in outer space with Regine Velasquez by my side. She plays Cielo, a schoolteacher who has a big crush on me without knowing that I am actually the alterego of the janitor who is in love with her, Ogie Alcasid. While we’re flying around, Regine sings the love theme of the movie, Sa Piling Mo, composed by Ogie himself, which will remind you of the flying scene of Superman with Lois Lane in the Can You Read My Mind sequence. It’s actually more difficult for Regine because it’s not easy to sing while you are hanging up in the air. But the sequence came out very well. Regine and I even have a kissing scene at very soft pala ang lips niya."

So how was it working with Regine and Ogie? "I’m really very happy to be given the chance to work with them since mga kapuso ko sila sa GMA 7. They’re very professional and you could see they’re doing their best to make the movie more beautiful. Regine gamely donned the Darna costume for a dream sequence we did while Ogie wrote several songs to come up with an original motion picture soundtrack for Captain Barbell. But it’s not only with them that I enjoyed making this picture, but also with those who played my opponents like Albert Martinez as Lagablab, Rufa Mae Quinto as Freezy and Jeffrey Quizon as Dagambat. Albert is a fire-eater here who works in a carnival. His abusive boss oppresses him so he kills the guy, played by Menggie Cobarrubias, by setting him on fire. A mysterious meteorite hits him and turns him into Lagablab, who can cause fire and explosions. Rufa Mae is, in turn, raped by goons who then put her inside a huge block of ice. A meteorite also hits her and she gains the power to turn anything she touches into ice. Jeffrey is a vagrant or taong graza stoned and driven out by townspeople. So he takes shelter inside a sewer where rats take care of him and he turns into Dagambat, a combination of a rat and a bat that can spew deadly venom.

"All of them also encountered difficulty with their costumes but what’s nice is everyone cooperated well during the shooting to make sure we come up with a very entertaining fantasy film for the whole family. I also have spectacular showdowns with all of them. When you analyze it, the film is actually about people who get oppressed one way or another and were all given superpowers. The three of them use their powers for evil. Only one, Ogie as Enteng, uses it for good, kaya siya ang naging ‘Captain Barbell’ na crimebuster."

How was it working with Director Mac Alejandre for the first time in Captain Barbell? "He has plenty of good ideas and I really admire him with the way he staged the fight scenes inventively. What’s nice is he is open to suggestion. He doesn’t throw his weight around just because he is director. He asks us if we have ideas of our own that can contribute in making a scene better."

Mac returns the compliment. "The truth is I’m quite nervous at first because Bong is a top action star and I’m not really an action director," he confesses. "But it’s so easy to work with him because, after a take, he even asks me if what he did is okay. When I tell him it’s not because he’s apparently thinking of something else, he doesn’t hesitate to ask for a retake and, before we that, we rehearse the scene several times until he feels he has perfected it. It didn’t take very long for us para magkahulihan ng loob and working with him made me realize why he continues to be on top. He takes his work very seriously and he’s open to new ideas and new people he has not worked with before. We bonded well on the set, the entire cast and crew, particularly with our cinematographer Romy Vitug, who made sure Bong and the other cast members always look good in each shot."

Bong adds that he has done some fantasy films before like Agimat and Bertud ng Putik, but this is the most expensive so far. "All in all, there are 180 special effects shots done in the film, organic style, meaning they are based on actual live action and not just pure animation. That’s more than the effects done in my past films. It’s really very expensive. One example is Lagablab. Every time Albert Martinez throws a ball of fire and it explodes, that costs P75,000 already. And here, Direk Mac even got the services of top dance master Douglas Nierras, to choreograph my flying scenes in the movie just to make sure I get my movements right. It’s important that even my take offs and landings are perfectly timed."

It’s not only his career as an actor that is doing very well but also his performance as Chairman of the Videogram Regulatory Board. Last July 18, he went to Hollywood to receive an award from the Motion Picture Association of America for his relentless fight against piracy. "The honor is unexpected," says Bong. "I got a letter then a phone call from Mr. Mike Ellis, head of the MPAA office in Asia, officially informing me that they are giving me an Award of Merit during the Global Anti-Piracy Conference held at their headquarters in Encino, California. The awarding ceremonies were held July 25, but the day before that, they gave me a tour of the various Hollywood studios. They know I’m an actor myself so I really welcomed this as it gave me the chance to learn more about the latest in film production."

His efforts in this department made him even more popular and in the surveys for senators in the coming elections, he always makes it to the top five. So, will he run? "I’ll give my answer in January. Malayo pa naman ang deadline for filing one’s candidacy. I don’t like people accusing me that, this early, namumulitika ako. But if our political party would include me in its ticket, who am I to reject their offer? However, I’m not going to present myself as a candidate even if some people assured me they’d support me in the campaign. It has to come from the party. As of now, though, my main concern is Captain Barbell. I’m praying that just like Agimat last year, it will emerge as a topgrosser in the Metro-Manila Filmfest. Those who will watch the annual Parade of Stars on Christmas Eve will get a preview of how I’d look in my tight-fitting costume kasi magka-Captain Barbell ako while riding on our float."

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