Proud cast give their Final Salute in ‘A Soldier’s Heart’
Vanessa Balbuena (Philstar.com) - September 18, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  It was three years in the making, what with the considerable research necessary to tackle the life of Filipino soldiers and the sensitive subject of Muslims in their often war-ravaged communities. For Gerald Anderson, lead star of the ABS-CBN series “A Soldier’s Heart,” the long process and recent obstacles in finishing the show have been “without a doubt” all worth it.

“Sa dami ng pinagdaanan sa show, sa personal life, the sacrifices and the training, naabutan pa kami ng pandemic, lockdown, shutdown,” said Gerald in a Zoom press conference, “yet we still found a way to come up with a good, quality show.”

Since it premiered in January, the series has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the plight and bravery of soldiers. It also touched on misconceptions about Muslims and how much terror and trauma war brings to their lives.

In tonight’s finale dubbed The Final Salute – airing 9:20 pm on Kapamilya Online Live and Kapamilya Channel – the chaos in Alex’s (Gerald) life will finally come to an end as he goes to war against his brother and mortal enemy Saal (Sid Lucero). After the death of his father Dante (Rommel Padilla), Alex realizes there is no other way to end Saal’s wicked plans but to take him down himself. Along with Abe (Carlo Aquino), Michael (Nash Aguas), Benjie (Yves Campos), Phil (Jerome Ponce), Jethro (Elmo Magalona), and Lourd (Sue Ramirez), they will do everything to crush the rebel group and save Elmer (Vin Abrenica).

One of the first television productions that braved a return to taping after quarantine measures were eased, “A Soldier’s Heart” locked in its essential cast members for almost two weeks and had to strictly implement a 12-hour working day. Token characters had to be woven out of the script, challenging writers’ creativity.

“We miss the contributions of Ariel Rivera, Elora Sasam…actors who had to pass up on joining us in the shoot,” said Raz de la Torre, one of the show’s directors. “It was a challenge paano palitan or ilihis ang story so that what we promised in the beginning, mapanindigan pa rin at hindi madiskaril ang audience. I’d like to commend our writers, headed by Jerry Gracio, because we read on Twitter that nagugulat ang viewers sa liko ng storya, but they can’t tell the difference whether it was the original plan or because the actor was not available.”

Gerald said he, along with the entire cast, felt excited and motivated to soldier on during their locked-in taping “because of the message that we’re imparting, yung kwento at sakripisyo ng mga sundalo, ng mga pamilya nila, and of our brothers in the Islam faith being misunderstood. It is very timely with what’s happening in our country.”

Director Richard Somes, who oversaw the project from the beginning before co-directors Raz, Mervyn Brondial and Mark Anthony Gile came on board, said he hopes their message that “we are all human beings with different perspectives, cultures, religion who have the right to live and enjoy the world” will resonate among viewers.

“A Soldier’s Heart” also touched on same-sex relationships within the military via Yves and Jerome’s characters, and both actors shared how they were cautious to respect the uniform they were wearing while portraying two men attracted to one another.

“Puro ako tanong at first sa production, kasi maingat ako sa character ni Benjie. Ayoko maka-offend sa mga sundalo in case I tend to over-act it. That’s why compared to the current BL (Boy Love) series, we were not too touchy,” said Yves.

For Jerome, he initially worried that real life soldiers might take issue with their PhilJie storyline, but talks with rangers assured him that it mirrors reality. In fact, it should not be a source of embarrassment because “nabanggit nila mas matatapang pa daw sila at madiskarte sa laban kesa sa mga straight soldiers.”

Sid was profuse with gratitude in being part of the series, and had been having a hard time letting go. “None of the crap that comes out on TV has anything to say, except this. I’ve never been so proud,” he said. “The pandemic and everything that’s happened to ABS-CBN are obviously terrible, but if you look at it, something also good happened: suddenly everybody was so important. We weren’t just actors, we had our own inputs.”

“The way it finished was kind of abrupt, although getting things together was a little short of genius. It was a beautiful catastrophe, if I can put it that way.”

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