The ‘baptism’ of Atom Araullo
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2017 - 12:00am

It wasn’t as “painful” as the rite of passage that young boys undergo during summer. In fact, it was “painless.”

That’s how an eyewitness graphically described the “baptism” of Atom Araullo on the set of Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake (CJ) that marks the revered director’s much-awaited comeback after more than 17 years of pregnant silence.

“It was Atom’s first shooting day and Mike told him to simply walk casually toward the De Leons’ house in Baguio which is used as the set,” recalled the eyewitness. “In fact, Atom was made to do light scenes muna and his heavier scenes will follow, in which he is required to ‘act,’ and show more emotion.”

For what some people described as his “swan song,” Mike was supposed to do a movie about the De Leon Clan, eyeing Vilma Santos as lead actress. That would have been their second movie together (after the controversial Sister Stella L., the 1984 political drama produced by Regal Films in which Vilma plays an activist nun inspired by a real person). Unfortunately, Vilma was too busy with the May election campaign to allot time for the movie’s shoot that was set for early January this year.

“Sayang,” said Vilma about the abortive project. “I would have loved to work with Mike again. Sayang at hindi nagkatugma ang schedules namin,” adding that she’s still hoping (against hope?) that someday, maybe not soon, she and Mike can work together again.

Citizen Jake could be as political as Sister Stella L. (for which Vilma won a Best Actress Urian). CJ is a noir crime drama set in the world of journalism and social media today. Cast as a journalist, it must be easy for Atom to be in character since he’s a journalist in real life noted for covering life-threatening events (such as the storm surge caused by Yolanda that virtually erased Tacloban City from the map three years ago.) Atom himself co-wrote the movie with Mike and Noel Pascual, so he should know what he is navigating in his acting debut. (Photography is by Dix Buhay.)

Reared by an activist mom, Atom in CJ co-stars with theater actor Teroy Guzman as his senator father and Gabby Eigenmann as Atom’s congressman brother. (Atom’s reel character hates politics.) Interesting, isn’t it? Atom doesn’t have to act (not so much, anyway), he just has to be natural.

The role is so challenging that Atom said yes when offered to him by Mike who is producing the movie under Cinema Artists Philippines. In an interview, Atom called his decision “a leap of faith,” describing Mike as “a genius” who makes socially-relevant movies, also including Itim (1976, his first starring Charo Santos who won an Asia Best Actress award), Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (1977, also shot in the same De Leon house in Baguio), Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980), Kisapmata (1981), Batch ’81 (1982) and Bayaning 3rd World, his last film now a classic made in 1999. 

Mike described Atom as “an intelligent person with deep social conscience” and since Atom is reputed to be a journalist and not an actor, he will be billed as “featuring” and not as “starring.”

Playing Atom’s love interest is Max Collins (“Mike finds her a very good actress,” said the eyewitness).

“No,” clarified the eyewitness, “Atom and Max won’t have a torrid love scene. Siguro light kissing-kissing lang.”

Other members of the cast are Cherie Gil, Lou Veloso, Luis Alandy, Noni Buencamino, Anna Luna, Allan Paule, Richard Quan, Victor Neri, Ruby Ruiz, Nanding Josef and Dina Bonnevie, all of whom are Mike de Leon first-timers, except Dina who starred in Hindi Nahahati Ang Langit (Mike’s only komiks-based work) with Lorna Tolentino, Edu Manzano and Christopher de Leon.

Gerald’s dream come true

Finally, after strenuous training, Gerald Anderson realized his dream of running in the just-concluded Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon as the Philippine delegate, finishing strong with a time of four hours, 25 minutes and two seconds. As usual, thousands joined the annual marathon.

On his 42k finish, Gerald said, “This is a goal that I really wanted to accomplish. I wore a Skechers GOrun Forza which was incredibly responsive and comfortable. It propelled me to the finish line.”

(E-mail reactions at For more updates, photos and videos, visit or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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