The Lolong road to success

KAPUSO DAY - Angel Javier Cruz - The Philippine Star
The Lolong road to success
The show, which started airing on July 4, stars Ruru Madrid in the title role as a man who develops an extraordinary friendship with a giant crocodile.

It’s been said that good things come to those who wait. It certainly holds true for longtime viewers who are now enjoying Lolong, the newest primetime series from the Kapuso network.

The show, which started airing on July 4, stars Ruru Madrid in the title role as a man who develops an extraordinary friendship with a giant crocodile. Bringing the story to the small screen took three years since tapings were hampered by the pandemic and its many restrictions. A total of three lock-in tapings were scheduled to ensure the safety of the talents, the staff, and their families.

Preparing for a series during a pandemic is not an easy task for everyone involved. Aside from the rehearsals and fittings, they have to be emotionally ready to be apart from their loved ones for long stretches of time.

For Ruru, whose role required him to do a lot of physical stunts, he prepared by doing regular workouts before and during the lock-in tapings. Aside from waking up early to run 10 kilometers daily for endurance, he also practiced Yaw-Yan or Sayaw ng Kamatayan (dance of death), a Filipino style of kickboxing based on older Filipino martial arts.

“Physically, grabe ‘yung pag-wo-work out ko dito. Talagang hinanda ko yung sarili ko sa pag-train sa Yaw-Yan at arnis para doon sa fight scenes. Kinuha ko lang yung basics dahil very active naman ako when it comes to mixed martial arts tulad ng Muay Thai, boxing, at wrestling. Halos lahat ‘yon, kumbaga, pinagsama-sama ko.”

For his mental well-being, Ruru carved out time to bond with his family before taping commenced because he was determined to focus on the show once cameras started rolling.

“Nag-quality time na ako with my family and with my loved ones,” said he. “Talagang binuhos ko na lahat ng time ko with them. Sinasabi ko na agad sa kanila na baka hindi ko kayo makakausap (in the middle of taping) kasi ‘yon yung magiging biggest sacrifice ko sa kanila. It was very challenging dahil syempre sobrang close ako sa family ko.”

For Ruru (in photo with Dakila), his role required him to do a lot of physical stunts. He prepared by doing regular workouts before and during the lock-in tapings.

When he felt homesick, Ruru channeled that feeling of sadness for his role. “Marami ring bubog si Lolong sa buhay. Marami rin siyang mga pinagdaanan.”

The extended taping schedules helped forge strong bonds between the cast that consisted of veteran actors and younger talents.

“Sobra naging close lahat ng cast. Challenging din siya for me kasi syempre, it’s hard na i-lead yung cast dahil may batikan dyan, merong mga mas nauna sa’kin at may mga bago,” shared he. “I’m just a team player, yun talaga ako. But this time, I tried my best para iparamdam sa kanila na iisa tayo dito.”

Three veteran actors who star in the series are Jean Garcia, Christopher de Leon, and Bembol Roco.

“Wala akong masabi (sa young stars). They are very professional, 100-percent yung commitment nila sa show. Nag-share sila, hindi sila swapang na aktor. Buo ang suporta sa isa’t isa, hindi lang yung mga bata, but everyone,” Jean said. “I’m so proud of this group — iba yung pagmamahal, yung passion, yung galing, pag-aaral na isinapuso nila rito for Lolong. I’m very proud na kasama ako rito,” she added.

Christopher and Bembol also praised the cast and crew for their professionalism and passion to create a show they are all proud of.

Ruru with leading lady Shaira Diaz.

“I got my inspiration from all of them. Then our directors, Rommel Penesa and Conrado Peru, were so inspired. Walang pa-star dito. We were like a family here during our lock-in taping,” Christopher said.

Bembol likened the relationship that developed during taping as a community. “Ito ay isang samahan na nagtulungan…masyadong masaya ang samahan na ito kaya naging interesting ang aming dynamics.”

Dakila, the giant crocodile, may not be a veteran actor but he is fondly referred to as “the highest-paid actor in the series.” The idea of creating a crocodile-themed drama series came from award-winning broadcast journalist and GMA News pillar Jessica Soho and assistant vice president for GMA Public Affairs LJ Castel. The crocodile has a fiber glass body and silicone skin. To make him move like a real amphibian, the production team used pneumatic technology, an air compressor, and computer-generated imagery (CGI).

They make it all seem easy, but completing the series came with numerous challenges apart from the pandemic, like the bad weather that brought floods and left the terrain for the location shoots treacherously muddy. Ruru also got into several minor accidents since he was determined to do most of the stunts himself.

“Napilay ako rito, nakatapak ako ng pako, nagkasakitan sa fight scenes, nagkadulas-dulas dahil maputik ang location. Lahat pala ng pagsubok na dumating, it was just a test. Anumang pagsubok pa na darating ngayon, kakayanin ko na,” he said.

The combined and sustained efforts of the cast and crew paid off. Just over 24 hours after the full trailer for Lolong was released, it garnered over a million views, with netizens getting a clearer picture of the storyline. Ratings during the first week of airing have been impressive, and feedback from viewers and netizens have been positive and encouraging.

Lolong stars a powerhouse cast that includes Shaira Diaz, Arra San Agustin, Malou de Guzman, Rochelle Pangilinan, Paul Salas, and Ian de Leon. Adding more color to the series are Marco Alcaraz, DJ Durano, Mikoy Morales, and Maui Taylor.

Catch the biggest adventure-serye on Philippine primetime on GMA Telebabad after 24 Oras.

The extended taping schedules helped forge strong bonds among members of the cast, which consisted of veteran actors and younger talents.
Photo from Ruru’s Instagram account

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