Ring in the New Year musically with STILL

Jerry Donato - The Philippine Star
Ring in the New Year musically with STILL
Julie Anne San Jose leads the cast of the first Filipino Viu original musical narrative series, with aspiring artist characters, who fight for their voice and show that it matters even against the limiting pandemic as backdrop.
STAR / File

STILL is in its final stretch this Friday, Dec. 31. Its last episode will be available to all at 8 p.m. on Ticket2Me before everybody finally rings in the New Year.

As you and I know, the characters, armed with their love for music, of the first Filipino Viu original musical narrative series have come together to attend an annual music camp in Balay, but eventually stayed there for quite some time because of the lockdowns, brought about by the pandemic. They collectively represent everyone’s struggles and triumphs during these trying times.

That’s why STILL remains relatable and a good source of comfort and inspiration for others, who need to move forward.

“To be honest, it was very difficult for us to work on this project given the lockdown situation,” recalled director Treb Monteras II on the challenges of filming STILL in a virtual press conference.

Pat Valera, Giancarlo Abrahan and Nicco Manalo are the show’s creators, while Monster Jimenez and Viu, the streaming platform, are the producer and partner, respectively. “Workshops were challenging because we had to follow strict protocols all throughout our production.”

Good thing was Treb and his team found a talented pool of actors, as he described it, who were all committed to be a part of a timely content. These individuals came from film, theater, Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and other creative industries. These talents were responsible for giving STILL characters a life of their own.

Julie Anne San Jose, Bituin Escalante and Christian Bautista, who are always reliable, played the relentless dreamer Laura, and mentors Annette and Nikolas. Also sharing their thespic skills are Gab Pangilinan, Mike Shimamoto, Abe Autea and Lance Reblando as the voiceless writer Sab; veteran camper Iggy; always “the happy pill” Tugs; and tired-but-still-a-fighter Leigh.

“All of us just wanted to experience music and theater the way we used to before the pandemic,” added the director, who considered the entire filming “an exciting journey.”

After streaming the seven episodes and soon the finale episode, one could say that STILL has made viewers feel that they are part of the narrative that unfolds right before their eyes, in which the cast and crew did with success. In fact, during the press event, the think tank behind STILL shared its vision of making it immersive.

Aside from that, STILL puts across the message that music is a place, where people can go to in telling their truth and expressing their feelings, said by creators like Pat. The narrative series carries on the healing and calming effect or conception of music on listeners, who try to make sense of their plight and deal with anxiety and doubt, especially when things seem fuzzy and unclear. STILL also reminds everyone to keep on believing and hoping that this (the pandemic) too shall pass. This is true to the artist-characters, who are challenged to fight for their voice and show that it matters even against the limiting pandemic as a backdrop. They all claim and exclaim, “We’re still here.”

Although very challenging at first, everyone needs to start anew and adapt to the changing world. This is what the people behind STILL did to continue their calling for creating music and telling stories.

What one could also gather from the press conference was, the creators, who have a solid grounding in theater, simply explored other platforms to share their creativity. Since theaters were temporarily closed for performances, they thought of coming up with a series, learned the ropes of filming a narrative and found a collaborator in Viu. All this encompassed their unique version of humble beginnings in creating “a series for the quarantine generation.”

Then, the possibility of showing it beyond the Philippines was something that surprised the STILL creative team. Their resilience and creativity culminated in the production and distribution of STILL, which has been enjoyed by Viu viewers for these past weekends. However, STILL’s musical treat doesn’t end there, its 13 original songs can be accessed and appreciated through Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal. Some of the tunes are Still, Bagong Mundo, May Liwanag, Mundo Umikot Ka, Paalaala Para Sa’yo, Sumandali and Tuloy Ka Lang.

The messages from creatives like Treb and Pat revealed that they are glad to be given that chance in narrating a tale of friendship, despair, love, “hoping amidst everything, and believing that there’s still a future.” All these should inspire and empower everyone in welcoming 2022 and embarking on new endeavors.

(The episodes one to six of STILL are available on Viu.)

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