Matteo’s Pedro Penduko will be Bisaya and reference Cebuano culture
Karla Rule (The Freeman) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Last October, entertainment giant Viva Films announced Matteo Guidicelli as the star of their upcoming “Pedro Penduko” remake, replacing their former contract artist James Reid who was originally cast for the title role.

And it seems that there are more changes in the “Penduko” remake, with the actor’s Cebuano heritage helping to put together the identity and the world of modern-day Pedro Penduko.

“Si Pendro Penduko ay ginawang Bisaya. Hindi lang yung artista kundi mismo si Penduko,” said Viva Communications Inc. president and Chief Operating Officer Vincent del Rosario in an interview with The FREEMAN during the official opening of the newly-minted Viva Studios at The Space along AS Fortuna in Banilad, Mandaue City.

This information comes prior to Viva’s announcement of their 2020 slate, which will see about 30 films in the pipeline for 2020. Among them is “Pedro Penduko: The Legend Begins” written and directed by Jason Paul Laxamana (“100 Tula Para Kay Stella,” “Between Maybes”).

With this tidbit, audiences can expect a ton of nods and references to Bisaya culture from expressions, martial arts, folklore, and even weaponry. Styled as a folk hero by National Artist for Literature Francisco V. Coching, Pedro Penduko is a comic book character whose resourcefulness and wit overcome evil forces. The comic book character of Pedro Penduko has been portrayed by Efren Reyes Sr., Ramon Zamora, Janno Gibbs, and Matt Evans.

Both Laxamana and Guidicelli have been equally enthusiastic about reinventing Penduko. On his Instagram account, Laxamana posted that he decided to break free from the fear of screwing up the established icon and instead highlight Filipino culture and folklore, which he loves so much. Guidicelli, for his part, says it has always been his dream to portray a Filipino hero.

With the vision of Sonny Sison (“Maria,” “BuyBust”) when it comes to fight scenes and stunt choreography, “Pedro Penduko” is set to entertain audiences not only with vivid Bisaya mythology but also exciting Bisaya arnis and intense street and hand-to-hand fighting. This explains Reid’s withdrawal from the role, since the actor suffered from spinal injuries and the film’s intensive training and stunts would only compromise his recovery.

“Training currently ang mga artista natin. Naghahanap rin kami ng location, nag-aayos ng budget and creating ng set,” said VP for TV Production and Creative Research Valerie Rose S. del Rosario.

“Our target date to shoot is next month. Meron pa rin siyang humor. Hindi mawawala but it’s not like the comedy na Janno Gibbs style. It’s a different take.”

Eyed as a 2020 MMFF entry, “Pedro Penduko” is an interesting production for Viva. Of late, Viva Films has garnered a lot of attention for their recent adaptation of South Korean films, starting with “Miss Granny” starring Sarah Geronimo in 2018, and most recently, “Miracle in Cell No. 7” starring Aga Muhlach which was well-received not only in the latest Metro Manila Film Festival, but also by the original South Korean creators.

“Inherently, Filipino naman yung take sa material. It’s no different when you license to do a foreign book. Although yung story foreign, pero noong ginawa dito, it’s Filipino. Even the sentiments, emotions na inilabas, humor, very Filipino. Tinanggap naman siya ng MMFF, there’s quality acceptance and in terms of the appreciation of the general public, na overcome ang issue,” says Vincent del Rosario, adding that they preferred to go straight to the source rather than rip off original material.

“In fact, even the director, we invited him sa premiere and he not only liked it, he asked if he can license our version. Hindi naman mangyayari yon but it’s a good compliment. It means that the Filipino version offered something new, a different take. Naiyak siya at ang original producer. In fact, the original lead actor is coming over in February to visit the country and have dinner with Aga.”

While they do plan to make more adaptations of South Korean films, Viva also wants to highlight original Filipino stories, starting off with “Pedro Penduko” and eventually giving the spotlight to cultural icons like Maria Makiling, among others. A Viva cinematic universe featuring Filipino characters is also not a far-fetched future.

Extending their roots to Cebu does not only stop with “Pedro Penduko.” With Viva Studios tucked in Cebu, Viva is physically closer to potential talents and storytellers outside of Metro Manila. The Viva office in Cebu currently houses their radio station and recording studio. This is also where Viva held their open auditions last January 11 for filmmakers, singers, and actors for a shot at the limelight.

“We’ve been looking at Cebu as a regional hub for Viva. Feeling namin, the growth for the company in terms of entertainment, movies, recording, music, artist development even broadcast operations dito, kulang pa. Alam natin ang gagaling ng mga taga-South, hindi lang mga Cebuano,” says Vincent del Rosario about their plans after establishing and empowering Viva South.

“Nagtayo kami ng opisina dito, pero hindi lang opisina. Studio, radio station, para ma-grow lalo ang business and maka-discover ng talent. We’re looking for singers at mga artista. May pitching with several filmmakers. We’re looking to discover films that will break out nationally.”

MATTEO GUIDICELLI
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