How far Paolo Gumabao will go for his showbiz goals
Paolo stars in his fi rst lead role in the sexy-drama Lockdown, set against the backdrop of pandemic crisis.
STAR/ File

How far Paolo Gumabao will go for his showbiz goals

Charmie Joy Pagulong (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2021 - 12:00am

Rising star Paolo Gumabao earned praises from veteran director Joel Lamangan and his co-actors for his lead portrayal in the film Lockdown, which mirrors the harsh reality of the pandemic crisis and how it affects the livelihood and well-being of a person.

The movie, likewise, elicited positive reviews from cinema aficionados and critics following a special screening held at Sine Pop in Cubao, Quezon City recently.

Lockdown revolves around the story of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), Danny Asuncion (played by Paolo), who came back home in the midst of the health crisis. He entered the world of cybersex performing to survive and provide for his family.

The relative newbie was lauded for his commitment to take on the daring role, including the frontal nudity required for the movie.

But who is Paolo Gumabao? For a start, he is the son of Dennis Roldan and the half-brother of Marco Gumabao and Michelle Gumabao.

In an exclusive interview with The STAR, the 23-year-old actor shared his thoughts about the film, how he prepared for the character, his budding showbiz career and how his life changed after meeting his father.

The actor with Lockdown director Joel Lamangan also at the same event.

Meeting his father

He was 14 years old when he found that his dad is the former actor, pastor and congressman Dennis, real name Mitchell Gumabao. A little flashback: Dennis was tagged in a kidnapping case in 2005 and is currently serving a life sentence at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

“Late na nung nalaman ko ‘yun (that his father is Dennis). Sabi ko, ah kaya pala gusto ko maging artista bata pa lang dahil siguro nasa dugo ko pala. Something na hindi ko mapigilan kasi I really had this feeling before na parang kailangan ko siyang gawin. Pag hindi ko siya ginawa may mali,” said Paolo.

Meeting his biological father years ago made an impact in his life. He said, “Siyempre nadagdagan ako ng mga kapatid. Nadagdagan ako ng mga taong nagmamahal sa akin. Sila Marco, si Michelle… I always wanted a kuya before and a sister. Nagkatotoo.” Marco is also an actor while Michelle is an athlete and a beauty queen who finished second runner-up in the Miss Universe Philippines 2020.

“In terms of career, I guess right now, I’m always gonna be known as Dennis Roldan’s son,” he also stated.

In a virtual media conference, Paolo narrated how he met his father. “I got his (Dennis) number from my mom’s friend. Patago ko siyang tinawagan. Hindi alam ng mom ko,” said Paolo.

He contacted him twice — he panicked the first time so he ended the call right after Dennis answered. After a few months, when he was able to muster enough courage, Paolo called again. “Sabi ko is this Dennis Roldan, Mitchell Gumabao? Sabi niya, ‘Yes, who’s this?’ Sabi ko, my name is Pao. Sabi po sa’kin ng mommy ko, tatay daw po kita.

“Sabi niya, huh, sino nanay mo? Sabi ko, si Sheryl (Sorreta) po. ‘Taga saan yung nanay mo? Sabi ko taga Project 7 or 3 yata before. Sabi niya, saan ka?” Paolo was living in an apartment in Ortigas at the time with his mom. His dad invited him to meet up nearby right at that moment.

“I was 15 years old, wala akong kotse. I didn’t have money for taxi. So I had to run to the Home Depot (to meet him). I was really excited. Tumakbo talaga ako papunta dun. Puro ako pawis.”

Paolo continued, “Hinanap ko yung aisle na sinabi niya sa’kin. Nakita ko siya. Lumapit ako. Tiningnan niya ako mula ulo hanggang paa, tapos sabi niya, ‘Anak nga kita.’

“Sabi ko, hindi po ba tayo magpapa-DNA test? ‘Hindi na kailangan.’ After that, he brought me to Lancaster Hotel because he had a (pastor) service there. During that service, kinuwento niya mismo kung anong nangyari sa araw na ‘yun.

“Tapos sa dulo na part, sabi niya, this is Pao. He is my son. I just met him earlier, two hours ago. Tapos grabe, lahat nagpalakpakan.

“It was touching for me, actually,” said Paolo.

Paolo poses with (left photo, from left) Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Film Development Council of the Philippines chair Liza Diño-Seguerra and executive producer Jojo Barron at the special screening held at Sine Pop in Cubao, Quezon City.

Discovered at a mall

Another interesting story was how Paolo got discovered for showbiz. “I was 15. I was walking in Megamall and ‘yung dating assistant ng manager ko ngayon, si direk Manny Valera, nakita ako naglalakad sa mall. Nilapitan ako and then asked me if I was modeling or if I wanted to try acting.”

He immediately answered, “Yes! I have been waiting for this for my whole life. We had a meeting with my manager and signed the contract.”

Last month, Paolo also signed a contract with Star Magic during the historic Black Pen Day.

The Kapamilya actor hopes to win an award one day and “make more films that can inspire people.” “These are just goals lang naman. Itong pelikulang Lockdown, this was just a goal for me five years ago.” And now, here he is, achieving his dream of doing a lead role.

He is also willing to go an extra mile for his showbiz goals. “(I will go) as far as I have to go (in achieving my dreams). I see it as something bigger than myself. This is amazing. This job is amazing. I actually believe movies can change people. If you watch real characters on screen and then real characters talaga yung mararamdaman mo... Marami kang ma-re-realize sa sarili mo.”

His dream role would be playing a mentally-challenged character and he is also open to the idea of being in a love team. His acting influences include Arjo Atayde, Joshua Garcia and John Lloyd Cruz.

When the pandemic is over, he plans to take a one month vacation, preferably on a beach.

Eye-opening film

Paolo defended his Lockdown character Danny, who got involved in cybersex to earn a living during the pandemic. “Lockdown will be an eye-opener for those who look down on people who are forced to sell their bodies for a living,” he said.

“Don’t just judge them because you don’t know what they’re going through kasi hindi n’yo naman alam ang pinagdaraanan nila. Mahirap talaga ang buhay ngayon due to the lockdown. Maraming walang trabaho. Like my character Danny, he’s pushed against the wall, sarili namang katawan niya ang binebenta niya, hindi naman siya nanghoholdap o nananakit ng ibang tao,” he said.

“People should watch Lockdown because everything that we show here is a reflection of reality, kung ano talaga ang nangyayari ngayon sa totoong buhay,” he added.

Although he hasn’t met someone like Danny in person, he was able to create a detailed character sketch on his own.

“In the morning, before I go to the shoot, I have my rituals. I need time alone in my room… it is something I developed myself because going to workshops, I realized before na sometimes ‘pag ginagawa ko ‘yung mga acting exercises nila, ‘pag tina-try ko sa shoot, hindi gumagana.

“That’s when I realized na siyempre we’re all people and we’re all different from each other, and we experienced different happenings in our lives. Everyone is different. I tried to make my own rituals kung paano ko maabot yung ganitong emotional state,” he said but didn’t disclose in detail what was the “morning ritual.”

Paolo also shared there was a scene in the movie that reminded him of his father. “’Yung eksena na pinapaliguan ko si Tito Jess (Evardone). Kasi may eksena din before ‘yung tatay ko with Nora Aunor na siya naman ang pinapaliguan (in Mario O’ Hara’s Bakit Bughaw ang Langit).” Jess plays Paolo’s bedridden father in Lockdown.

Not about voyeurism

As for the film’s message, Paolo stressed that the “movie is not just made from a fantasy, na nakakalibog lang.” It was a “very well-thought script” based on true stories, he said.

The film is written by Troy Espiritu who based the story on interviews of people who experienced the same circumstances.

Direk Joel, as well, clarified that the purpose of the movie is to depict the reality of a particular milieu and not about “voyeurism and libido.”

“What the movie is saying is that in the troubled times that we are all in, it is always safe to follow strict protocols to avoid unnecessary transmission of the virus.

“Ang taong gipit na gipit sa buhay, kahit na anong uri ng pagkakakitaan ay gagawin, makatulong lang sa mga mahal na magulang, kahit ang kabayaran ay ang kanyang dignidad bilang tao o kanyang buhay man,” direk Joel further emphasized.

His rating for Paolo’s overall acting performance is “almost excellent,” “10 out of 10.”

Executive producer Jojo Barron summarized three important takeaways of the film: First, it deals with the fact that COVID-19 is very much present and that we have to take precautionary measures to be safe; second, love for family; and third, hope springs eternal.

The sexy-drama is set to compete at the 2021 Asian Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain in November.

Meanwhile, Paolo was elated to see Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte during the special screening of the film. “She really cleared her schedule so that she could watch Lockdown. I was very happy na may time siya na ma-i-share namin ‘tong pelikula sa kanya.” The screening was also attended by Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair Liza Diño.

Lockdown also stars Alan Paule, Max Eigenmann, Ruby Ruiz, Paul Jake Paule, Angellie Sanoy and Jim Pebanco. Rounding up the cast are Jeff Carpio, Neil Suarez, Kristian Allene, Dincent Lujero, Mauro Salas, Alexis Yasuda, and Sean de Guzman.

Produced by the For the Love of Art Film, the uncut version of Lockdown is streaming worldwide tomorrow, July 23, via KTX.ph, Upstream.ph, RAD (iamrad.app) and WeTV.

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