A Palanca winner’s new world

- Mario E. Bautista -
It’s but natural for director Jun Lana to feel on pins and needles these days as his debut flick as a filmmaker, Gigil, is about to be shown. Jun is a Palanca Award Hall of Famer, having won five first prizes in the annual literary contest. 

He first won in 1991 for his play, Mga Estranghero at ang Gabi, later filmed as Mga Pusang Gala. In 1996, he won in the best TV script category for Daigdig ng mga Taksil (later filmed as a movie on lesbianism, Tatlo Magkasalo, starring Ara Mina) and the best screenplay category for Sa Pusod ng Dagat (filmed by director Marilou Diaz Abaya for GMA Films.) His other award-winning scripts are Barber’s Cut (yet to be produced) and Milagroso (made on TV as a Lenten special and now nominated as Best Teledrama in the Asian TV Awards.)

GMA 7 then got him to work regularly for them. He is now creative consultant for its drama series, like Atlantika, Captain Barbell and Magpakailanman.

"My contract with GMA expires this December and I don’t think I’d renew it as I want to write some stuff for other people and not just be tied down with one company. But I owe them a lot as they gave me my break as a director."

 He first tried directing in the defunct Kakabakaba horror series and now megs the weekly telefantasya Fantastikids.  Does he think Gigil is a good directorial debut for a full-length film?

"From the start, I knew it’s going to be a very commercial project and my main concern is for it to earn at the box-office, not to win critical praise or awards," he says. "I can’t say no to Mother Lily as this is my bayad utang to her for financing my filmmaking studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia, two years ago.  Hopefully, when this makes money,  I can ask her to let me do the kind of projects I like to do."

Wasn’t he supposed to also direct the Metro-Manila Filmfest entry, Mano Po 5, Gua Ay Di?

"Yes, it was first assigned to me, but I had to back out as the shooting was delayed. By the time the cast was ready to shoot, I was supposed to start my episode in the trilogy for Gawad Kalinga about the Leyte landslide, Umiyak Man ang Langit, starring Maricel Soriano, which I have since completed filming."

Jun was born in Makati on Oct. 10, 1972, but when he was two years old, their family moved to Legaspi City in Bicol.

"I had a lonely childhood there. I had no playmates. I have a younger brother but we didn’t grow up close. My dad abandoned our family when I was four. I never saw him again. I searched for him later and I was able to track him down in Hawaii where he has another family. Last I heard, he had a heart attack and I never got to visit him. At seven, we returned to Manila and it was when I was in grade school that I fell in love with reading plays, like those of the late Boy Noriega. That’s how I got to start writing plays. My first three-act play was produced when I was in high school at the Dominican School. I won my first writing prize for a one-act play I wrote in college, Exodo. I finished Communication Arts at UST in 1992. My uncle, Fr. Tamerlane Lana, was then the rector."

Was it hard to do Gigil? "We shot 80 percent of it in Boracay for 12 days. It’s quite easy as most of the stars I worked with are from the Kapuso network, except for Ketchup Eusebio who plays a boatman in Boracay and Say Alonzo is Katrina’s best friend. They’re from ABS."

Why the title Gigil? "It’s a play on words since there are different kinds of gigil. Katrina plays China, a girl who works in a call center. Nanggigil siya sa galit when her groom, played by Boom Antonio, runs away from her and she discovers that he’s really gay. She then goes to Boracay to nurse a broken heart and meets Felix, played by Alfred Vargas, a dive master, na gigil na gigil naman sa beauty niya. But she suspects he’s also gay. Si Bianca King naman, gigil na gigil kay Alfred but Kat thinks he’s only using her as a front to make himself look macho. Since the story is set with the beautiful beaches of Boracay as main locale, we can say that all the members of the cast, nagpa-sexy rito wearing skimpy swimsuits. I admire Kat. Walang kaarte-arte sa katawan even in her love scene with Alfred on the beach. It’s very erotic, complete with sand, a bonfire, and waves lashing on the shore. They have good chemistry on screen, just right for this kind of feel-good romantic comedy with a dash of sex."

So what will be a dream film for him? "I have this script called Mona Lisa SMS. It’s about a scandalous sex video transferred from one cellphone to another and how it affects the lives of the characters involved in it. It’s something definitely more serious and I’m thinking of producing it myself if there would be no other producer willing to finance it." 

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