Paul Soriano: Siargao Mon Amour!
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2017 - 4:00pm

Mention Siargao and what comes to mind? Sun, sea and surf…and much, much more! The place is not only the playground of sun-worshippers, it is also said to be the perfect hideaway for lovers who shun the limelight. One side of the island paradise is “somewhat public” (for people not afraid “to be seen”) and the other side “somewhat private.” Siargao is where the father of Martin Andanar, PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) Secretary, hails from and where Martin spent his younger years jogging around the village where his family lives “And where I play basketball with my son,” he told The STAR in an interview, “and where I surf to keep in shape,” and where he plans to “just surf” once he retires from government service.

The Andanar family owns a beach house in the Sta. Monica area which Martin described as “more quiet and more private” than the General Luna side which is frequented by celebrities. According to reports, it was in General Luna where First Son Baste Duterte and Ellen Adarna (now with John Lloyd Cruz) spent their first date.

Siargao also has a special spot in the heart of director Paul Soriano who immortalizes the place as title of his entry in the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) topbilling Jericho Rosales, Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Erich Gonzales.

Let’s hear it from Paul…

“I also hope the film can create an awareness that we all should take care of Siargao,” said Paul. “Tourism and development is inevitable but as early as now, let’s take the right steps in helping preserve the beauty of Siargao. It would be nice to support groups like Sea Movement that have been active in creating social awareness to take good care of Siargao. Let’s all visit and enjoy Siargao but also let’s respect it and take care of its beauty and charm.”

Of course, you are relieved that Siargao has made it to the MMFF. Why do you think it qualified as official entry against dozens of other applicants?

“I’m very excited and humbled to be a part of the 2017 MMFF. It’s my first time to experience this. I actually tried to apply to MMFF in previous years but never got in. But I continued to work hard to tell more stories and Siargao made it. I’m just excited, really excited for everyone to watch Siargao.

“To be honest, I was really scared and nervous when I was creating Siargao. It’s my first time to tell a love story, to tell this type of story, but it was a challenge I was willing to take on and hopefully, the Philippine audience will appreciate that this Christmas when they watch the film. At the same time, while it was very scary for me, it was really fun, I had so much fun making this film! I’m just really excited and happy that we qualified for MMFF 2017.” 

What’s so special about Siargao that it has to be immortalized as title of a movie; what significance does Siargao have to you?

“Siargao is very much a character in this film, it sets the tone and the mood all throughout. It was the perfect title for this film. Siargao has become very special to me. I was able to visit the island a couple of years back and instantly fell in love with the place. It just brings out the simplicity in you, to be free, raw and laidback; it renews your mind, keeps you creative and allows the heart to breathe and to love.”

Is it true that you have a resort in Siargao (what made you fall in love with the place)?

“Yes, I have a resort in Siargao called Harana Surf Resort (www.haranasurf.com).The idea was brought to me years ago by my good friends and we all partnered up and bought some property in General Luna, and a couple of years ago, put up the resort. So far, it has been doing real well. I do need to mention Ian Sermonia and Mike Medina who really took the initiative from Day 1 and did a great job with Harana; it’s really because of them the resort is doing so well. Plus, this was all their idea and when I told them about the film, they were very helpful and assisted the whole production team while we were filming in Siargao. So, if you all do visit Siargao, do check out Harana Surf in General Luna.” 

How different is Siargao from your other movies; what is Siargao all about?

“Siargao is very different from the four films I have directed. I have produced and directed A Journey Home, Thelma, Kid Kulafu and Dukot, and produced Transit, Dagitab, Mariquina and Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, all from my own film studio, TEN17P (www.TEN17P.com).

“A Journey Home is a film about forgiveness, Thelma is inspirational and about hope and determination, Kid Kulafu is about the triumph of the human spirit and that even when you have nothing you can still do great things in the world, the childhood of Manny Pacquiao, and Dukot is a suspense thriller that deals with small-time crimes.

“Even with the films I’ve produced, Siargao stands out as my first time to deal with the romance genre, a love story about finding yourself, losing yourself and going back to the things that really mean the most to you and for me, that’s family and home. Siargao is about discovering yourself and sometimes you need to go home to find this, or sometimes you need to go away to get it right. I feel that Siargao brings that peace and quiet we all need so that we can hear those whispers, so we can listen to our heart, and feel what our soul wants to say so that we may face life with the exact purpose God has intended for us all.”

What goes into your choice of subject and what preparations are involved (logistics, etc.)?

“Having been to Siargao many times before this film, I had an idea of what Siargao meant to me and that’s how I told this story. My approach to this film was to tell a story as freely as possible, to be scared and unfamiliar, to be challenged but to find ways to overcome it, to be raw and organic, to love and let it be, and most importantly to have fun, be a child again. I believe when you watch this film, you’ll just see how much fun we all had!”

How has fatherhood changed (if it did) your outlook as a person and as an artist? (Paul has a son nicknamed Seve with wife Toni Gonzaga.)

“Being a father has been the best thing for me. I love my son so much. It’s like I have a new set of eyes, I see everything differently and like everything is new, as if I became a child all over again. It has made me appreciate happiness and what it truly means, and what happiness now means to me is when I simply see my son, as if I’m actually doing something right in this world.”

If you were to direct Toni in a love story, what kind would it be?

“I actually directed Toni already in my first film, A Journey Home. We’ve talked about this and at this stage of our lives, I would rather not direct her in a film, but rather produce a film for her. We’ve actually been planning this hopefully for next year. I want to produce a film about sisters, in which I would cast Toni and Alex.” 

Please talk about the Siargao cast (especially Erich). Do you always have a hand in choosing your actors?

“My process has always been to create a story first before anything else. Story first, script first then I slowly start thinking of my cast and everything else. 

“Jericho was top choice for me to play Diego in this film. I’ve known Jericho for a while now and have always wanted to work with him, but it had to be the right project. Well, that goes for all actors I work with. I’m really blessed that he accepted the challenge to tell this story with me. To be honest, I wouldn’t have known what to do if Jericho wasn’t able to be a part of this film.

“Jericho was involved as early as the first few drafts of the script; and after every draft we would meet and create more ideas. He was hands-on from the start and that just showed me how serious he was about this project; it was motivating for me. He was perfect for the role, he was seamless in creating his character. For moments when we were shooting the film, I felt Jericho wasn’t even there anymore; he had embodied the true essence of his character and ran away with it. 

“I’ve worked with Jasmine in Transit (as a producer). Since that film, I’ve been a fan of her work. She takes her craft very seriously and you can see and feel her passion in every scene we do. She’s really such a natural and what I really like about her is that she’s not conscious of the camera, she’s able to really get into character, and when the cameras are rolling all you see is Abi, her character.

“It’s my first time to work with Erich, and she delivered. She was great. When we first met, she was willing to do whatever it took to bring Laura, her character, to life. She even learned how to surf, which isn’t easy. The first few days in Siargao, she already had cuts and bruises from her surfing lessons, but nonetheless she still kept going.

“In one particular scene, she had to jump from a 30-foot diving board into the deep blue lagoon. I knew she was nervous and felt that she was hesitant at first, but she did it. She jumped and not only once; we did four takes from four different angles. What I really liked about Erich was how much she cared for the story and her character. We would discuss, debate and talk about each scene, the dialogue, the motivations and the nuisances and then she would simply deliver.”

What do you think is the edge of Siargao over the seven of other entries?

“Let’s support and watch ALL the entries of the 2017 MMFF. If we ALL do that, the real winner will be the Philippine Cinema!”

When you do a movie, what’s foremost in your mind, awards or financial (gross)?

“It’s the story for me all the way, story first. I focus always on the story and once I’ve locked that in, I do hope it then finds an audience. For every film I do, yes I do pray it does well financially because if it does, it means I can do more films, tell more stories.” 

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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