Against all odds, ‘Walang Hanggang Paalam’ delivers in its 6-month run

Vanessa A. Balbuena (The Freeman) - April 16, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It was a scorching hot Friday when director Manny Palo was shooting a lengthy action sequence at the Subic Yacht Club for the ABS-CBN series “Walang Hanggang Paalam.” Most of the shots were exterior and anti-COVID protocols allowed only a minimum number of crew on set.

“If you were to ask me the most memorable taping day, that would be July 10, 2020,” Palo said of that day at the digital conference for the show’s finale week that they’ve dubbed “Against All Odds.”

This was the sequence where Paulo Avelino’s character tries to rescue his kidnapped son from Jake Cuenca who is hiding the boy inside a yacht, and a shootout ensues. Palo said that while doing take after take, at the back of their minds was the ongoing Congress hearing that would decide the fate of their network’s franchise. It was around 4 pm when news came in that the voting resulted to a non-renewal.

“Natahimik kami lahat. Lumayo ako sa yate at hindi ko napigilan umiyak,” he shared.

The actors too retreated to their own corners and wept. But they still had a scene to complete. So cast and crew trudged back to their spots, finished the scene, then all went inside their accommodation to share a drink and muse on what would become of them now.

“But here we are, celebrating our finale,” Palo said. “It was quite an experience, really against all odds. Ginawan talaga ng paraan to deliver quality entertainment in all platforms, with or without the franchise.”

After premiering tail-end of September last year, the series that was originally conceptualized pre-pandemic as a Southeast Asia-trotting action drama (with a sequence already shot in Thailand and a planned finale in South Africa) will air its conclusion tonight on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, TV5, Kapamilya Online Live YouTube channel, ABS-CBN Entertainment Facebook page, and iWantTFC.

Emman (Paulo) and Celine (Angelica Panganiban) will fight against all odds to rebuild their family and reunite with their son Robbie (Robbie Wachtel). Emman and Leo (Tonton Gutierrez), as well as Celine and Amelia (Cherry Pie Picache), will also come face-to-face in their fight to protect their loved ones.

While Leo resorts to saving himself and revealing Amelia’s crimes, Anton (Zanjoe Marudo) will succumb to his obsession with Celine and will do whatever it takes to win her back. Sam (Arci Munoz) meanwhile will make sure that Anton and Amelia pay for their crimes as she helps Emman and Celine get the justice they’ve longed for.

There is pride in Palo’s tone as he notes that “Walang Hanggang Paalam” – along with the long-running “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” – was among the first few to resume shooting outside Metro Manila and in actual locations at the height of the pandemic.

“Lahat nangangapa pa sa protocols. Lessons were learned, which we applied in succeeding bubbles. There was a time we were on location for 50 days. To be safer for everyone, it was decided to just stay on location instead of going home every few weeks,” said Palo.

Filming for actors 15 years old and below was prohibited, which posed yet another challenge since Robbie’s character was central to the plot.

“Hiwalay talaga lahat ng eksena ng bata. Very challenging for the actors especially in emotional scenes dahil may kausap silang bata pero walang tao sa harapan nila. We shoot the kid actor at his house. One cameraman with a PPE [personal protective equipment] suit, and he’s also the audio man. The magic of technology. We take note of his angles so it becomes seamless in post-production,” Palo shared

His co-director, Darnel Villaflor, was hats off to all their cast members who delivered excellently in dramatic scenes despite the physical absence of their child star.

“Lahat ng eksena na kasama yung bata, yung anak ni Ms Pie, gusto ko sila bigyan ng acknowledgement. I’m in awe na natapos namin lahat ng eksena na kasama sila kasi napakahirap. Wala silang ka-eksena pero bigay todo ang emosyon,” Villaflor said. “Madugo ang proseso in planning the scene, and we thank the management for pushing us to go through with the process.”

Playing one of the series’ main villains, Cherry Pie said she relished her role and called “Walang Hanggang Paalam” one of her favorite projects. “Gustong-gusto ko at mahal na mahal ko si Amelia. I haven’t portrayed a kontrabida in a long time. I love playing one, especially if the character is complicated so you get to play around with it,” the actress said.

Zanjoe, likewise, was grateful to be assigned a baddie role for the first time.

For JC Santos, portraying Paulo’s former jailmate and loyal friend, the caliber of the cast had him constantly on his toes. “Yung mga tao sa paligid mo, ang gagaling so you have no choice kung hindi galingan din,” he said. “Kapag hindi mo alam yung linya mo on the spot, nakakahiya.”

Apart from the solid bond that a bubble set-up creates among cast and crew, Arci (in a role she took over from Nadine Lustre) quipped that the fact that she shot this series in the middle of a global pandemic makes this show one for the books.

“I will share this to my kids in the future that I shot a series in a pandemic. Saying goodbye is kind of bittersweet because while we look forward to going home and seeing our families, it’s sad at the same time to part from this family that we created on set.”

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