The Noranian in Yul Servo

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -
When Angora Films cast Nora Aunor opposite Yul Servo in its Manila Filmfest entry, Naglalayag (directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes from a story by Irma Dimaranan), the one who got more excited was Yul’s mom, Zeny Nieto, who’s a Noranian.

"Hindi makapaniwala ang Nanay ko,"
smiled Yul, his eyes disappearing into mere slits (his trademark). "She was very happy."

While his mom has seen all Nora Aunor movies, Yul admitted to having seen only a few, including Himala, Banaue and T-Bird at Ako.

"I used to wonder how Ate Guy (Nora) did it," added Yul, "and when we started shooting together, I saw how it (the ‘machinery’) worked. Sabi ko, ‘A, ganoon pala.’ Natural na natural; parang hindi umaarte."

In the movie, Yul plays a taxi driver from the slums, with whom Nora as a 49-year-old widowed judge falls in love (she later gets pregnant).

"On our first shooting day," recalled Yul, "I was very nervous even if we did a few workshops together (also with other Naglalayag stars like Aleck Bovick who plays Yul’s girlfriend). I was just supposed to bring her home in my taxi and we get stuck in the flood. That was all. And yet, I was nervous."

It turned out to be a good warm-up. In the next few weeks, Yul would do more "nerve-wracking" scenes with Nora including four kissing scenes, one shot in bed and another in the swimming pool, which will surely get Yul’s Noranian mom more excited.

"Ate Guy made me feel at ease, and so did direk Maryo."

It’s his second time to work with Maryo; the first was in Regal Films’ Laman for which Yul got a Star Awards nomination for Best Actor.

Before that, he was also nominated twice for his movie debut, Lav Diaz’s seven-hour epic drama Batang Westside, which was shot in New York and New Jersey, the first during the 2001 CineManila (International Filmfest) and then at the 2002 Brussels Filmfest.

"As an actor," said Maryo of Yul, "he bites his role slowly. He develops with his character. As the shooting progresses, he grows into the role. Veteran actors attack their roles on the formula level – you know, may pre-conceived interpretation na kaagad. But Yul approaches his character with a fresh mind-set."

He learns from his every director.

"Direk Lav taught me how to internalize, how to feel the role."

For Batang Westside where Yul played a promdi from Manila in search of his long-lost father in New York, Lav asked him to explore New York on his own.

"I walked and walked around the city by myself," said Yul. "I got lost several times and I found my way back. One time, I even lost my wallet to a pickpocket; it contained all my money. During that wandering, I began to imagine how my character felt, going around a big, big city not knowing if he’d ever find his father."

Like his Batang Westside and Naglalayag roles, Yul has remained a probinsyano (Bulakeño) at heart, unaffected by the sophistication – and the hypocrisy? – of showbiz even if he has been in it since 1998. He has been the object of nasty rumors – about his private life which he has been forced to reveal, that he’s married and has kids, and about his friendship with Piolo Pascual – which have failed to erode his faith in human goodness and his ambition to be a respected actor (he’s on the right track, thank you!). What they say is true: You can take a boy out of the country but you can never take the country out of the boy.

said Yul with conviction, "gusto ko lang mag-trabaho. I don’t mind the intrigues and the tsismis. Mapapagod din sila."

Having played (typecast in) poor-boy roles, Yul wants a change of pace in the near future.

"I came from a humble family and I know how it is to be poor, so playing poor-boy roles seems easy to me. For a change, I want to play a rich boy. It’s not me, so playing one must be challenging. I’d be playing an entirely new character, not somebody close to the real me."

Comment on the FAP ‘Loot Bag’

* From reader Nicky of Sacramento, California:

It's interesting to know that Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) awards is giving away "loot bags" to the star presentors. It is being done here in the US from way back. Like what you said in your article, it’s a bait for big stars to come to the awards night.

At the Oscars, not everyone gets a loot bag; only the presentors, the performers and the winners who get to bring home one. I am wondering what's gonna be inside the FAP loot bag. Knowing FAP (and any other Pinoy award-giving body for that matter), they will use the loot bag as added media mileage for its sponsors.

Thus, I won't be surprised if one would find a box of Tide, a bottle of peanut butter, a bottle of shampoo, a bar of papaya soap at kung anu-ano pang ka-cheapan.

My point is, if you're gonna copy something then copy it exactly or even better. Here in the US, the Oscar loot bags would cost from $40,000 to $100,000 depending on whomever is the receiver, whether a presentor, a performer or a winner. It was even reported in Entertainment Tonight that some of the loot bags for the winners contain Harry Winston jewelry, designer bags and even treatment to famous spas in Beverly Hills, a trip to Bahamas, etc.

Sa loot bag ng FAP Awards, ano naman kaya ang laman? Albert Martinez (one of the brains behind the awards) should make sure that it’s all gonna be worth it.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected])

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