Ferdy Topacio: I choose actors, not impersonators
The donation was given during the stars’ recent contract signing capped by a toast led by Ferdy, head of Borracho Film Production that produces the movie.
Ferdy Topacio: I choose actors, not impersonators
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Cameras have finally started grinding over the weekend for Mamasapano (formerly titled 26 Hours: Escape from Mamasapano), the maiden offering of Borracho Film Production, a company formed by controversial lawyer Ferdinand “Ferdy” Topacio and friends over bottles of hard drinks and platefuls of sushi and other Japanese delicacies.

“That should make it clear why we named our company Borracho,” Ferdy told Funfare half in jest, half seriously, referring to the Mexican or Chicano slang for...hik, hik, hik!...a drunkard. But make no mistake about it. Ferdy’s team was sober and serious when they conceptualized the project about the 2015 massacre in Mamasapano where 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers died during a law enforcement operation against Muslim rebels (23 of whom were killed).

“We shouldn’t let time erase that tragedy from our memory,” Ferdy said then and is saying now. “It’s a painful story aching to be told, not tomorrow but today,” noting that “the cases filed with the Ombudsman have been dismissed but new charges were refiled in November last year...back to square one.”

Directed by Lawrence Fajardo (Posas, Imbisibol, The Strangers, etc.) from a screenplay by Eric Ramos, the film was originally intended for this December’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) which might have to be postponed due to the pandemic — unless the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) came up with a “new normal” way of holding it (online like the recent Emmys).

Lawyer Ferdinand ‘Ferdy’ Topacio hands check for P100,000 to Rez Cortez as donation to Mowelfund, the foundation headed by Rez who stars in Mamasapano.

Ferdy himself personally tapped the actors for the movie calculated to stir the proverbial hornet’s nest, including Juan Rodrigo as former DILG Sec. Mar Roxas and Mowelfund chairman Rez Cortez as former PNP chief Alan Purisima, plus singers LA Santos (as a young soldier) and Gerald Santos in his post-Miss Saigon film foray as PNP SAF commando Christopher Robert Lalan, the sole survivor of the Mamasapano encounter.

Juan Rodrigo plays former DILG Chief.

Asked about his criteria in choosing the actors, Ferdy (who is knowledgeable about film, being a critic who writes for The STAR) explained, “No, not about the actors’ resemblance to the people they are portraying. Actually, the physical similarities are secondary. I wanted great actors who can study a real-life person and make a skillful reading of his character to create an on-screen persona that will bring out the essence of the role that they are playing within the context of the story. In other words, what I want are not impersonators but actors who can bring to life a believable human being on the big screen.”

Mar Roxas: I can’t get pointers from Sir Mar and I will watch videos of how he talks.

That’s a big challenge to Juan and Rez.

“It’s my first time to portray a living person,” said Juan. “I don’t know Sir Mar personally so I can’t ask for pointers from him. Maybe I’ll watch videos about him and study his mannerisms when he talks and how he looks. I will shave my mustache and wear glasses.”

“I will not attempt to imitate or copy Police General Purisima. I haven’t met him para mapag-aralan ko the way he moves and all. I will just do my own interpretation of a high-ranking police general who is full of confidence and authority.”

Rez plays former PNP Chief Alan Purisima.

“But I have heard about the incident,” added Juan, “and I even followed it in the papers and in the newcast. I’m disappointed how they handled the situation; no back-up came during the encounter and they let them die. So sad! Hopefully, the movie will clear many things at malilinawan ang lahat.”

We haven’t met so I will do my own interpretation of the role.

And Rez, “When it was happening, I was excited kasi punung-puno ng action at may foreign intervention pa. Very interesting kasi my political overtones.” (Aside: During the contract-signing, Ferdy donated P100,000 to Mowelfund. According to Rez, who was appointed only last year after Boots Anson-Roa Rodrigo retired as Mowelfund head, “Due to the pandemic, we are having a hard time raising funds. We want sana to raise the benefits for the members. Our big source of funds is the MMFF but unfortunately, baka walang MMFF this year.” Ferdy pledged to donate a percentage of all Borracho movies and that of the company’s upcoming concert of Myrtle Sarrosa.)

“I am determined and committed to complete the movie notwithstanding the hardships brought about by shooting in an environment inundated with a plethora of health protocols which are restrictive but necessary in the light of the pandemic,” said Ferdy.

Because of its sensitive subject, the film is bound to generate further controversy.

Rez: “Everything that we will do in the movie has already been published in newspapers at dumaan na sa Senate hearing. Dapat lang maging maingat sa dialogue na idi-deliver ng characters para hindi lumabas na libelous. Actually, I’m not worried because all our producers are lawyers.”

Juan: “Hopefully, the movie will lead to reopen and pursue the case and hold responsible the people involved.”

Myrtle sings theme song

Aside from playing a reporter competing with another reporter (Ritz Azul) in Mamasapano (both are fictitious based on real people), Myrtle Sarrosa (in photo with Ferdy Topacio) also sings the movie’s theme song titled Aking Mahal.

“The music is an old ballad I composed back in 1983 for the Asian Song Festival held by Student Canteen,” said Ferdy. “It was disqualified in the semi-finals. Nanay Cristy Fermin and I changed the lyrics to Tagalog to reflect a song being sung by a soldier to his family as he lay dying in the fields of Mamasapano. It will make you cry.”

Here are the lyrics:

Aking mahal, kung ako’y di na makabalik

At kailanma’y di na madama’ng iyong halik

Isipin mong ako ay naririyan lamang

Natutulog ng mapayapa

sa yakap ni Inang Bayan

Tungkulin ko ay mahusay kong ginampanan

Kahit ito’y umabot hanggang kamatayan

Ang buhay ko’y hinandog ng may karangalan

Ang akin lamang tanging hiling

Huwag mo akong lilimutin

Ang yakap mo pati ng ating mga anak

Ang aking huling naiisip

Habang dugo’y dumaranak

Paalam na, huwag malulungkot, huwag tatangis

Hanggang huli, ako’y lumaban ng buong bangis

Pagkat kami’y inyong mga Tagapagtanggol

Dugo’t buhay ma’y igugugol

Ito’y aming sinumpaan

Hanggang huling hantungan...

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

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