Meryll Soriano, Joem Bascon find ‘comfort’ in being reel and real-life partners  

Nathalie M. Tomada - The Philippine Star
Meryll Soriano, Joem Bascon find âcomfortâ in being reel and real-life partners   
Meryll and Joem feel ‘comfort and security’ as co-actors in Rain Yamson II’s Angkas, one of the full-length finalists in the ongoing Cinemalaya film festival. Photo also shows co-star Ben Alves
STAR / File

Real-life couple Meryll Soriano and Joem Bascon felt lucky to be finally paired on screen via the 2022 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival finalist Angkas.

In the full-length feature directed by Rainerio “Rain” Yamson II, based on the Palanca-winning screenplay of Jaymar Castro, Angkas tells the story of friends Leo (Joem), Ditas (Meryll) and Miguel (Ben Alves).

According to the press notes, their relationships intersect once again when Leo is asked to take on a “special assignment.” He is a habal-habal driver but at the same time, the resident ambulance who transports dead bodies from the mountains in their remote village in Compostela Valley.

Joem says his role as the habal-habal driver Leo strongly resonated with his personal life

His estranged friend Miguel particularly seeks his help in retrieving the dead body of their childhood friend and Leo’s former lover Ditas, who joined the New People’s Army and died in the crossfire with government forces.

As Leo and Miguel go on a perilous journey on habal-habal, they encounter playful diwatas, dangerous roads and cliffs, government and rebel clashes, and an unlikely “savior” in a dead woman.

Meryll shares that her character, Ditas, reminds her of former self.

Meryll said she was immediately drawn to the film’s “very powerful characters.” And when she learned that this was inspired by a true story, she said she fell in love with the narrative even more.

“It’s not just a love story, it’s not just about friendship, ang dami niyang tinatamaan pero ang simple-simple niya (the material) but (also) very powerful,” she recently told The STAR in a virtual interview.

As for Joem, part of the reason he joined the project was to keep his promise to direk Rain, a two-time FAMAS winner as a cinematographer, to be part of his directorial debut.

It was also offered at a time when the material resonated strongly with his personal life. He recalled being at a crossroads where he had a lot of what-ifs like his character.

The actor said, “Malapit na malapit siya sa pagkatao ko nung panahon na ‘yun. Yung nabasa ko siya, the question, ‘What if?’ was always asked in the script. Like, what if this is my decision, will I be able to accept the consequences? What if (I find myself in the fork in the road) and this is the direction I pursued?

“What if, what if? Puro ganun ang tanong ko sa sarili ko at that time at sa script. What if my character chooses this, will he be happy? Will he be successful in life, but sad in his love life? Or if he’s not successful, will he be super happy in his love life? (But what if) yun yung meaning niya sa ‘success’ sa buhay?

“So, I was at that stage in my life and I was very happy doing the role because it hit close to home. Plus, Meme (Meryll) became part of the casting. I was happy because I was able to act with her on the big screen for the first time.”

For her part, Meryll said her character reminded her of who she was in the past.

“Or a few years ago, before I found maturity. Ditas is somebody who’s really close to my personality before. She’s a fighter, kung ano lang yung paniniwalaan, ‘yun lang ang gagawin. Kumbaga bahala na lahat, basta kung ano gusto ko, ano ang pinaglalaban ko, dun ako.”

Through the role, she said she was able to revisit her “former self.” “It rekindled that fire and but also forgiveness sa sarili kasi malaking part ng buhay ko yung ganun ako nuon, maybe it’s because I have a bipolar condition. It really resonated (with me) as I was like that before and there’s a lot of forgiveness kung sino man ako ngayon. That’s why I think the role is really special,” Meryll explained.

Meanwhile, Angkas marked the first time that Meryll and Joem acted together on the big screen. They’ve worked on the same projects but never really shared scenes or storyline until Angkas. Besides that, what made this new film of theirs a different experience is that it came at a time where they have since evolved as actors and individuals.

Said Joem, “It’s different because probably we’ve matured when it comes to our acting. The film is more of the internal, subtext, and your experiences in life you carry them through your nuances and just the eyes. Hindi mo siya sobrang pinapakita sa lahat ng tao na naghihirap kami or pinaglalaban ko ang isang bagay na ‘to.”

As for Meryll, there’s comfort in working with Joem. “There’s a sense of maturity already and sigurado na kami sa buhay namin. The connection is really there. And also the comfort and security not just as actors, but also as people.”

The actress is also excited for the audiences to see Joem’s portrayal in Angkas. “I’ve always believed in him. I’ve always supported him even during the time that we were not together. I’ve always celebrated him as a really good actor. I’m excited (about that) more than anything.”

Aside from being happy to be reel partners, they are also happy being real-life partners. And as parents, they are both hands-on with their one-year-old son Guido.  To recall, the couple surprised the public when they introduced their son on New Year’s Day 2021 and finally answered speculations of a sweet reconciliation.

“Because he’s my first son, parang binibigay ko lahat sa kanya, attention, lahat. I want to see everything, his milestones and all that he’s capable of doing,” Joem shared.

He recalled struggling with lock-in tapings at the height of the pandemic lockdowns because he simply wanted to stay close to home. “As a dad, my family is more important than my work now,” he said.

Meryll added, “Guido is very lucky that he has both his parents by his side. I think it’s a blessing, yung pandemic during our pregnancy, our giving birth at that time, na walang pwedeng pumasok sa bubble namin. We were given the time and space to be parents.

“Because, of course, 14 years ago, that wasn’t my setup. I was a single parent (to Eli)… So, I’m celebrating this time that we’re together. And Joem is a hands-on dad. At first he didn’t want me to even change diapers, he wanted to do it himself, now he lets me do it (laughs). But yes… I really saw how he was changed by fatherhood and how we became closer to each other because of our sons,” the actress further said.

Embracing motherhood the second time around, she could honestly say what a great feeling it is to have a partner in life to rely on.

“Sobrang pilay ako ‘pag wala si Joem kasi grabe yung pag-aalaga niya sa amin. And di lang sa amin ni Guido but yung anak namin na panganay, si Eli. I appreciate everything that Joem is doing for the family and I’m really enjoying it,” she shared.

Joem also looked back on how the pandemic brought him and Meryll back together. “During the pandemic, after 10 or 12 years kaming magkahiwalay, bigla nalang kami nagsama sa bahay ng tatlong taong straight. We were given the chance to rediscover ourselves, to take care of our children. Sobrang saya!

“Minsan nag-uusap kami ang hirap no, but at the end of the day, ‘di na namin mababalikan yung mga ganitong pagkakataon ng mga anak namin. So. we’re really enjoying whatever we have with Guido and Eli. Kasi for sure, ‘pag tanda nila, dalawa nalang kami sa bahay, magkukwentuhan nalang kami kung ano nangyari (pandemic).”

Meryll revealed that when she and Joem first became a couple, Eli was only two years old and the actor took care of him. Now with the arrival of their Baby Guido, “it’s like a full-circle moment for him,” she said.

(The 18th Cinemalaya film festival, which has returned to in-person screenings this year at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, runs until Aug. 14.)



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