Action-drama mounts ‘uncompromised’ scenes despite restrictions
Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - September 28, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  With marching orders to produce a series of uncompromised quality despite shooting limitations, the “Walang Hanggang Paalam” team was faced with a challenging task.

Originally titled “Burado,” the action drama was supposed to span multiple countries and had Julia Montes and Nadine Lustre as female leads, along with Paulo Avelino and Zanjoe Marudo as main actors.

First unveiled in February, the project was announced as officially cancelled by producer Dreamscape Entertainment in August because its pre-pandemic concept of action-packed scenes in international locales was difficult to mount at this time of prevailing coronavirus restrictions. A lead cast member, Thai actor Denkhun Ngamnet, also could not be flown in due to anti-COVID travel bans.

Turns out the series was still a go, but without Julia and Nadine who backed out because they were allegedly not willing to be locked in for a considerable period. Angelica Panganiban, Arci Munoz and Jake Cuenca replaced the actresses and the Thai star, respectively, and tonight at 9:20 on Kapamilya Online Live and the Kapamilya Channel, the series is finally premiering against all odds.

“Ang bilin sa amin, huwag niyo muna pigilan ang sarili niyo, ibuhos niyo muna lahat, and then compromise with the production during the time of the pandemic taping, kung anong pwede, kung anong hindi,” began scriptwriter Joel Mercado during a digital press conference Friday. “I’m proud to say that even with all the restrictions, hindi halata sa kinalabasan.”

As seen in a press preview for the series held before Friday’s media conference, New Normal scenarios were incorporated into scenes: characters wearing face masks, hotel staff giving social distancing reminders, hotel guests chatting away about parties still prohibited, even Angelica’s role of mother to a young boy having a temperature scanner on hand. A scene that was supposed to have a hospital chain matriarch (Sherry Lara) deliver a speech in a formal business function – which in normal times would have been depicted in a ballroom with numerous hobnobbing guests – was executed with the daughter (Cherry Pie Picache) viewing a close-up recording of the speech on her mobile phone.

In “Walang Hanggang Paalam,” Angelica and Paulo are former lovers Celine and Emman who go their separate ways after he ends up in jail due to a wrongful conviction. Believing he is guilty of the crime, Celine breaks up with him and raises their son Robbie as a single mom.

After spending years in jail, Emman is finally released but his hopes of rebuilding his family are shattered when Celine falls in love with Anton (Zanjoe), a wealthy businessman. Emman tries to make up for lost time with his son. But before they can even reunite, Robbie gets kidnapped by a suspected syndicate.

As they search for the kid, their efforts are muddled by bitterness and old issues, while Celine gets caught between Emman and Anton, who are both determined to look for Robbie and prove their love to her. Emman also finds comfort in Sam (Arci), a former colleague who is secretly in love with him.

The original script was to have the abducted boy transferred to various Southeast Asian countries, with a sequence in Thailand already shot last January.

“We were supposed to go to Cambodia next, then India, and we planned a finale in South Africa,” director Manny Palo said. “We maintained the original story. In terms of scope and action sequence, it’s the same. Except the boy will now be transferred to different places in the Philippines – fictionalized of course.”

Paulo said he enjoys his action scenes because having two left feet, performing the stunts was the closest he could get to a dance routine. He was saddened that initial plans of country-hopping and casting other international actors were scrapped. “But I’m just happy and thankful that it pushed through. I wouldn’t say it’s on a smaller scale because we’re still following the original script with minor adjustments,” the actor, who plays an idealistic former National Security Agency agent, said.

Other cast members are JC Santos, Tonton Gutierrez, Lotlot de Leon, Ronnie Lazaro, McCoy De Leon, Mary Joy Apostol, Victor Silayan and Javi Benitez.

Arci said she hesitated accepting the job at first because she didn’t want to expose her mother, a senior citizen whom she lives with, to the virus. But the action genre, which she had been wanting to try for the longest time, was too good to pass up on.

Zanjoe – portraying here an insecure, extremely jealous man that’s far removed from previous projects – said “Walang Hanggang Paalam” is significant for him because for the first time, everyone was on equal ground.

“Nawala yung top to bottom, kung sino yung mas may power at mas importante. Before pandemic, meron tayong mindset na artista ako, dapat importante ako. When we were shooting, para siyang bayanihan, pantay-pantay lahat. Lahat dapat protektahan, ano man ang trabaho niya. Sana kahit wala ng pandemic, ganoon pa rin ang ugali ng mga tao,” he shared.

The last among the cast to say her piece during the video conference, Angelica dropped a surprise announcement. “Masaya ako na ang nakasama ko sa project ang mga director at artista na ito dahil gusto ko ng magpaalam sa larangan ng teleserye. I’m not leaving ABS-CBN, pero siguro hanggang dito na lang ang trabahong gagawin ko pagdating sa soap opera. Ga-graduate na ako sa teleserye, so this one will really make a mark in my heart and mind.”

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