Faith, love, time & the Padillas
Faith, love, time & the Padillas
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When the members of the Padilla showbiz family made their grand entrance at ABS-CBN’s Dolphy Theater, it was obvious they came from a colorful family with special genes.

The Padilla girls — Kylie and Bela including Robin’s wife Mariel — have stunning features and the boys — from Rommel, Robin, Daniel, RJ to Matt — are dashing with quiet, if, self-contained air about them.

The arresting decorum of the Padilla boys is deceiving when one of them delivers a punchline and all the members of the clan suddenly burst into laughter. Indeed, they parry some personal questions with comic diversions and all at once you see the common traits that glue this family together: They work hard but they have time for fun.

The most famous in the clan are, of course, action star Robin and his teenage sensation nephew, Daniel, who is not comfortable articulating on his now celebrated showbiz life.

Together, they appear in Star Cinema’s Sa Ngalan Ng Ama, Ina at Mga Anak directed by newcomer Jon Villarin. They bring to life the story of Ozamiz City’s Ongkoy from the famous Kuratong Baleleng group.

As the story unfolds in the ’70s, Robin points out this is not the same Kuratong Baleleng gang now notorious for hold-up incidents in the city. In the ’70s, Ongkoy fought for the masses and fought for their rights. His crusade mounted with his own armed group (actually with members of his own family) became the stuff of legend. The leader eventually became famous as the Robinhood of Mindanao.

Robin says he stumbled upon the story of Ongkoy when he went to Ozamiz to scout for locations for his tikbalang horror film. In the house where he stayed, he met his friend who is a general in the special action force. “He told me, ‘Why are you preoccupied with stories of the supernatural when there are true-to-life figures here you can make into an interesting film project?’ And so he told me about the story of Ongkoy who fought for his people. Some 20 years after he died, his cadaver remained intact and a tree has grown from his coffin. I told myself this is really a miracle. I sent direk Villarin to check the story and indeed the story of Ongkoy was true. Two decades after he died, ‘hindi pa naagnas ang bangkay niya.’ When he was still alive, it was told he had a talisman which diverted bullets from his enemies. I like films on countryside folklores and so I decided to do this film with the entire Padilla showbiz clan.”

It is perhaps a coincidence that Robin’s baptismal name is Robinhood Ferdinand Cariño Padilla whose father, Carlos Roy Padilla, is a popular politician from Camarines Norte felled down by an assassin’s bullet in 1988 at the age of 61.

Nevertheless, the story of Sa Ngalan Ng Ama… is about a family which remains close, despite the dangerous battles waged by the head of the family.

Like it or not, the closeness of the family of Ongkoy finds semblance in the Padilla family who treated the project as one big excuse for one big family bonding.

Daniel says he became doubly excited with the project because he will be reunited with his father, uncle and cousins on the silver screen.

Adds Robin: “I decided that we will have a big part here and my wife, Mariel, plays the wife of Ongkoy who has nine children. And so my brother Rommel became part of the film and his three sons (by two different mothers) and my daughter, Kylie. I can assure you that all throughout the shoot, there wasn’t a single incident of tampuhan and awayan. It was direk Villarin who bore the brunt of the shooting tension and for surviving the Padilla clan all throughout that he should sport Padilla as a new surname.”

Although most members of the cast intimate that they would rather donate their talent fees, Robin decided to pay them as professionals. For his superstar status now, Daniel got the highest fee. “Although most of them didn’t want to collect their talent fees, I decided it was better to work with them as professionals, not as relatives. It is better that way so I can be spared from bonus requests if the film does well.”

Someone asks if Robin has thought of recruiting his elder brother Rustom (now known as BB Gandanghari) in the film. He demurs if he should now address elder brother Rustom as ate. He sent someone to convince him to join the project. “Of course, I insisted he has to be Rustom in this film, not BB Gandanghari. He replied he is not yet ready to face the camera in an action film. Lalong uminit ang ulo ko. I really wanted everyone in the showbiz Padilla clan to be in this movie.”

Direk Villarin admits: “Handling the Padillas in one film is, of course, scary. For one, this is my first film and of course, the expectations may be high. I am personally close to them but I have to connect (with them) in a professional level so I can live up to what they expect from me as director.”

As for the 18-year-old Daniel, it looks like he is coping with fame and fortune with relative ease.

His Uncle Robin says he cannot imagine himself starting in showbiz the way Daniel did: In syrupy kilig teenage love stories and now into song and dance validated by a highly-successful Araneta Coliseum debut and platinum record sales for Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat composed by Jungee Marcelo.

Rues Robin: “I think it is me and the other Padilla showbiz members who should ask advice from Daniel on how to handle fame and fortune. With his good attitude, I can see him dominating showbiz for many decades more.”

Admits Daniel, who is a bass player of a band before he was discovered by television: “I work hard to give my audience the best. Doing those love scenes is not easy; crying in a break-up scene is not easy. I work hard to be able to make it look true to life. That’s why I feel sad when people say, ‘Wala akong ginawa sa TV kundi magpa-cute.’”

Adds Robin: “The measure of a successful person is when people start throwing brickbats on a popular figure and that is happening now to Daniel. Lahat na lang na ginagawa niya napapansin. But I think he knows how to keep his cool.”

The popular nephew adds: “Nothing has changed much since I got those big breaks. The only difference is that I am now able to help a lot of people and that is a big source of joy for me. Another thing, of course, is that with the income, I can now afford to have those things I can’t easily buy before.”

The words are not easily articulated. In between pause, the honest reply comes easy. Certainly, Daniel is not the kind who will gloat on his success.

Robin concludes: “What I can probably advise Daniel is that he is carrying the Padilla name and for us, it is always a name worth remembering when we rise and fall and rise again to give people hope and inspiration. We all know that the need to keep a family close is one of the messages of Sa Ngalan ng Ama… But through Daniel, who has a wide following among the young people, I hope to spread the message of change and social reform, bearing in mind the most basic sources of inspiration: God, country and family.”

Star Cinema’s Sa Ngalan Ng Ama, Ina at Mga Anak opens in all theaters on Jan. 29.

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