Way Back Home: The perfect movie for Kathryn & Julia

KAPAMILYA DAY - Kane Errol Choa - The Philippine Star
Way Back Home: The perfect movie for Kathryn & Julia
The movie tells the story of long-lost sisters Joanna (Kathryn Bernardo, far left photo with Enrique Gil) and Jessica Santiago (Julia Montes).

Reeling from the success of the TV series Mara Clara, Star Cinema took a gamble to launch lead stars Kathryn Bernardo and Julia Montes with the family drama film, Way Back Home, in 2011.

The film may not have performed as expected at the box office. Still, it found a life of its own on cable TV and YouTube that created a cult following among teenagers 10 years ago and who are now young adults.

“It may not have been the right time, but it was the perfect movie project for Kathryn and Julia,” said award-winning scriptwriter Vanessa Valdez at the virtual premiere of the digitally restored and remastered Way Back Home on KTX.ph.

“There is life outside a film’s theatrical run,” shared Vanessa. “When the movie was shown on YouTube Super Stream, I was overwhelmed by the reactions. They were the fans of Mara Clara, who may not have had the money to watch the movie when they were 11 or 12 years old. But they watched it on Cinema One repeatedly with their families that it became part of their childhood and growing up years.”

Way Back Home is the first and only movie that Kathryn and Julia appeared in together. Vanessa recalled that the two young actresses were supposed to appear in a romantic comedy movie, but the series of events that happened in 2011 hindered the project.

Jessica lives a life full of pain and guilt after losing her sister years back, trying to fill the emptiness felt by her mother. On the other hand, unaware of her true past, Joanna lives simply in a humble fisherfolk family as Ana Bartolome.

“Kathryn was being paired with Albie Casino, while Julia Montes’ partner was supposed to be the late AJ Perez, who tragically passed away during Holy Week. At around that time, Albie was also facing an issue. And the director being tapped for the project was not available. So may feeling na parang hindi ito ang tamang istorya,” she recalled.

Vanessa added that Star Cinema thought of doing a family drama to make the film more relatable to the viewers, who followed Kathryn and Julia in Mara Clara religiously on TV. They also had to cast new actors to play the leads, which eventually went to Sam Concepcion and Enrique Gil.

“I was at a coffee shop when I received the call that AJ had passed away. Nawala ang leading man ng project. As a tribute, we named the character after him, which Sam played. We also dedicated the film to AJ,” said Vanessa.

And they had only one director in mind, Jerry Sineneng, who is known for helming family dramas.

“I was so inspired to do the movie that I always looked forward to going to the set and interacting with the stars,” said Jerry, who started working on the film in June that already had a playdate in August.

Doing the scenes along the beach was a challenge as it was the rainy season. Jerry recalled, “May bagyo the day before sa Bataan. We had to finish the shoot. May buntot pa ng bagyo sa Bataan at maalon.  Hats off ako kina Kathryn at Julia. Bumabaon ka sa burak. Hirap na hirap ako. Ayaw ko sana ituloy noong una, pero that was our last day. Trooper ang dalawang bata.  I love them.”

The moviegoers’ reactions more than made up for all the hard work they put into the film. Vanessa watched the movie on a regular day at SM Megamall to see how people found the film.

“Naalala ko na pagpasok ko sa banyo, umiiyak sila. Di sila maka-get over. Nadala sila sa mga eksena. Sabi ng iba, dapat kasama nila mga anak nila manood. And my sister had the same experience when she watched it with her friends.  Pag punta nila sa CR, nag-iiyakan ang mga tao,” shared Vanessa.

Way Back Home tells the story of long-lost sisters Joanna (Kathryn) and Jessica Santiago (Julia). Jessica lives a life full of pain and guilt after losing her sister years back, trying to fill the emptiness felt by her mother, Amy (Agot Isidro). On the other hand, unaware of her true past, Joanna lives simply in a humble fisherfolk family as Ana Bartolome.

Their lives then intertwine in a fateful encounter when the sisters compete against one another in a swimming competition, with Amy finally finding out that Ana is their lost daughter, Joanna. As Ana reunites with her biological family, Jessica’s feeling of loneliness worsens day by day, with their family’s attention turning towards her sister, causing a rift between the two.

Screenwriter Vanessa Valdez and veteran filmmaker Jerry Lopez Sineneng join ABS-CBN Film Restoration head Leo Katigbak during the preshow of Way Back Home.

The film also stars Lotlot de Leon, Tonton Gutierrez, Bella Flores, Ahron Villena, Jairus Aquino, and Clarence Delgado. It is currently streaming on KTX as part of ABS-CBN’s Sagip Pelikula campaign that recently celebrated its 10th year of restoring and remastering films from directors and writers of note for today’s viewers to appreciate.

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