A love letter to Titas of Manila

Honey Orio-Escullar - The Philippine Star
A love letter to Titas of Manila
Call Me Tita director Andoy Ranay (leftmost) with the cast members (from left) Mylene Dizon, Agot Isidro, Lorna Tolentino, Cherry Pie Picache, Angelica Panganiban and Joanna Ampil
Photo by Honey Orio-Escullar

MANILA, Philippines — iWant Originals’ Call Me Tita is the latest comedy series set to air simultaneously over ABS-CBN and iWant on Aug. 18.

Directed by Andoy Ranay, Call Me Tita tells about the Titas of Manila or women in their 40s who navigate the issues of womanhood.

Inspired by stories of fearless and empowered Filipina women, Call Me Tita revolves around the lives of five life-long friends who seek out new experiences while coming to terms with getting older and really finding their purpose in life. It is a love letter to middle-aged women who conquer life while making it more interesting — emotional, funny, sharp-witted, thought-provoking, self-deprecating, self-questioning, but always rooted in truth. Call Me Tita is written by Patricia Valenzuela-Kent and Noreen Capili, and co-produced by Dreamscape Digital and Heaven’s Best Entertainment.

“It started when me and my friend, who lives in the States, talked about the Titas of Manila…kung ano yung mga problema ng mga Titas dito sa Pilipinas with age brackets of 40 to 50 and above,” said direk Andoy who personally handpicked the cast led by Lorna Tolentino, Cherry Pie Picache, Agot Isidro, Mylene Dizon, Joanna Ampil and Angelica Panganiban as the Tita-in-training/millennial Tita.

“Kasi we’re friends,” he added, referring to the cast before proceeding, “we always see each other during gatherings or travels. Tapos sabi namin bakit di na lang kaya tayo gumawa ng kuwento about us (since) we belong to the same age group (which is) 40s and above. And usually when they reach the age of 40, lagi na lang mother roles, pang-Tita (role) ka na lang, pang-support.”

Direk Andoy pitched his idea to the Dreamscape team led by Deo Endrinal, who then gave him the green light to carry out his plans.

“It was last Christmas when we started creating the story concept and then we started rolling last April,” he said, admitting that the biggest challenge for him, knowing very well the hectic schedules of these actresses, was “kung paano ko sila mapapagsama-sama. With their huge personalities, how will I handle them in this kind of project? This is different because these are not the usual characters that they play on TV or in movies, and out of their comfort zone so medyo may challenge talaga. I guess kaya rin sila napa-oo because this is not the usual series na ang bida ay mga Tita. So (sila) naman, because they have wonderful stories to share so I think that’s what convinced them. This is very ambitious but I guess we pulled it off because they’re all so awesome.”

The series’ teaser showed Cherry Pie, Joanna, Mylene and Agot in two-piece white swimsuits, which direk Andoy described as one of its highlights. It was also a big challenge for him to make them strip down to their undies in white against a black background.

He said, “The reason why we’re doing Call Me Tita is really to celebrate the body and embrace it at this stage. The message of the series is to love yourself no matter what (body) shape you are in.”

When the cast members were asked if they had reservations prior to accepting their roles which required them to show some skin, Mylene told The STAR, “No, kasi ginusto rin namin to eh. We’ve always had this idea of working together in a project. After all, we are friends at lagi kaming magkakasama. So, when they gave this to us, mag-aarte-arte ka pa ba? So gawin mo na lang, galingan mo na lang.”

“That shoot was comic and fun,” added Agot. “We stripped down as in no make-up at all, tapos naka-panty and bra lang kaming lahat in all shapes, forms and sizes…and the cellulites present (laughs).”

Cherry Pie, on the other hand, admitted she was initially reluctant doing her love scenes with Jay Manalo. “It was challenging because when you’re already a mom, may pinoprotektahan ka na diba? But eventually, sabi ko sige, I’ll embrace it because when else will I do it? I’m 49 and I’m proud. But I have no plans on doing it when I’m already 60 (laughs). I also wanted to challenge myself as an actor. First time ko talagang gawin ito in my 29 years in the business.”

For Joanna, she readily took on the challenging role even if it required her to take off her blouse during a kissing scene on Day 1 of filming.

Despite reacting “with fats and all on the first day?,” Joanna went on with what the script needed. “Yeah, then sa stress ko, nagkaroon ako ng pantal-pantal but yeah, that was a challenge for me. Buti na lang it happened to me on a first day because I had to do a love scene also at the end of the day with Jay Manalo na first time kong na-meet. Even if I’ve done love scenes on stage, in theater kasi we’re given time to get to know our co-actors during rehearsals, whereas here, on the first day hindi ko kilala. So (I said), ‘Let’s just do it, and do it right so we don’t have to keep taking it. And also it’s Andoy and I trust him. I knew that he will edit it well and it’s gonna be done with taste.”

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