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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Ruru Madrid rises as primetime’s newest hero in ‘Lolong’

Vanessa Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Marked by various delays, setbacks, and not a few injuries to its titular star who was on the brink of giving up, GMA Network’s biggest adventure series for 2022 is finally premiering tomorrow, July 4, three years since it began production.

“Napakaraming pinagdaanan ng programang ito. Pero masasabi ko na lahat yun worth it. Totoo talaga na kung ano man yung mga bagay na nangyayari sa atin, masama man yan or minsan hindi natin matanggap kung bakit nangyayari ito, pero dadating yung araw that we will realize this is happening kasi ito yung kapalit. At ito na yun,” lead actor Ruru Madrid said during the show’s grand digital media conference. “Tatlong taon namin ito ginawa, pinag-isipang maigi, at pinaganda.’”

This Monday after “24 Oras”, a new hero rises on Philippine primetime television as Ruru, anointed Kapuso Action-Drama Prince by his network, headlines this latest creation of GMA Public Affairs that tells the exciting tale of a man’s extraordinary friendship with a giant crocodile.

Joining him as leading ladies are his co-Sparkle artists Shaira Diaz and Arra San Agustin who play the roles of Elsie and Bella, respectively. Free-spirited and ‘woke’, Elsie is Lolong’s loyal friend. Such friendship will blossom into something deeper that will be tested by various forces. Bella, on the other hand, is a travel vlogger from Manila. Behind her beauty is a mysterious personality that will leave viewers guessing if she is a friend or a foe.

Lolong’s life will be surrounded by the characters brought to life by the powerhouse cast composed of Christopher de Leon, Jean Garcia, Bembol Roco, Malou de Guzman, Rochelle Pangilinan, Paul Salas, and Ian de Leon.

Adding more color to the series are Marco Alcaraz, DJ Durano, Mikoy Morales, and Maui Taylor. Set to portray special roles are Gina Pareno, Pokwang, Mon Confiado, Ryan Eigenmann, Leandro Baldemor, and Abby Viduya.

As a child, Lolong (Ruru) developed an affinity with animals through the help of his parents Gloria (Abby) and Raul (Leandro). They introduced him to a unique friend – a gigantic crocodile who they named Dakila. Immediately, Lolong and Dakila formed an unusual bond.

Unfortunately, Armando Banson (Christopher) has made it his personal crusade to kill all crocodiles in his small town of Tumahan, saying that the creatures are a menace to their livestock and have been reported to attack and kill people.

Growing up, Lolong kept his friendship with Dakila a secret. But he would also notice peculiar things about himself and would soon discover that while being special is not a choice, it is his calling – and he needs to answer the call.

Ruru, last seen on GMA Public Affairs-produced primetime series “Toda One I Love” opposite Kylie Padilla, has been preparing for “Lolong” since 2019. “Then the pandemic happened so we were delayed. And then every time we would start the project, nagkakaroon ng problema. I remember we were about to shoot a vlog, biglang pinagiba yung studio, binaha, so hindi natuloy,” shared Ruru.

“We were also about to have our first taping, then somebody became COVID positive. Andaming ganyang struggles. It came to a point na nawalan ako ng gana sa career ko. I felt that maybe this is not the right career for me. Gusto ko na bumalik sa pag-aaral noong mga panahong yun.”

Ruru further said that with prayers, and thru the encouragement of those around him, he was convinced to plod on. “So many people believed in me and were telling me not to give up. Antagal mo ng hinintay yan, ngayon ka pa ba susuko? This is actually my 10th year in showbiz and this was the project given to me, so I’m just very lucky to be part of a project na ganito kaganda yung material, ganito kagaling yung cast. At the same time, this is our director’s first television project where he is the main director. Hindi magiging ganito kaganda ang programang ito kung hindi sa galing niya,” the homegrown Kapuso talent said.

“Susuko na ako eh. Ayoko na. Parang hindi ko na kaya. Pero parang kayo [co-stars] na lang yung tinitignan ko dahil walang isa sa inyo ang sumuko. Kaya wala akong karapatang sumuko din,” he added.

“Ang daming pagsubok, pero walang isa sa amin ang sumuko na huwag nalang ituloy. Syempre yung iba kinukuha na sa ibang shows pero hindi nila iniwan itong programa na ito. Sa sobra naming pinagdaanan, ewan ko nalang talaga. Napilay ako, napako ako, lahat napagdaanan namin kaya sana talaga mapanood niyo yung pinaghirapan namin.”

Directed by Rommel Penesa and Conrado Peru, “Lolong” is another primetime offering produced by GMA Public Affairs – the same department behind the series “Inday Will Always Love You,” “One of the Baes,” “Owe My Love,” and “Love You Stranger,” as well as well-loved series that showcased stunning cinematography and superb visual narratives such as “The Lost Recipe,” “Ilustrado,” “Alamat,” and “Sirkus,” among others.

Ever since GMA Network announced the making of “Lolong”, the show has been drawing attention – from the concept to the cast, and to the production value. Its teasers have been trending online, with netizens praising the cinematography and visual effects that complement the cast. And in just over 24 hours since it was released, the show’s full trailer hit more than one million views with netizens getting a clearer picture of the storyline.

The idea of creating a crocodile-themed drama series came from award-winning broadcast journalist and GMA News pillar Jessica Soho and Assistant Vice President for GMA Public Affairs LJ Castel.

Dakila, who has been fondly referred to as the “highest paid actor in the series,” is made of fiberglass body and silicone skin. To make him move like a real crocodile, the production team used pneumatic technology and an air compressor, as well as computer-generated imagery (CGI).

For Ruru, it was important for him to do his own stunts because it gave him a sense of fulfillment that he was giving his all to such a meaty role. “Iba yung satisfaction when you see yourself on TV na ikaw mismo ang gumagawa. Artista ako dahil pangarap ko maging action star. Pinapanood ko lang ito nung bata ako, and finally I was given the opportunity,” he said.

“Yung katawan ko dito kailangan batak kasi most of the time topless ako dito, lagi akong lumalangoy. Every morning hangga’t kaya ko mag-training before taping, gagawin ko, or pag-uwi ko galing taping. Kasi kailangan talaga kondisyon ako dito. It was very challenging, but these are the kinds of challenges that I seek. I’ms turning 25 this year, and I want to explore.”

When he had a foot injury, Ruru said that more than feeling the physical pain, he felt more the hassle he caused to cast and crew for yet another delay.

He shared, “Ang tagal naming hinintay tapos limang araw na lang sana, but because of what happened, delay na naman. I challenged myself: I did therapy, rehab so I will be ready once more. To be honest I wasn’t a hundred percent when we resumed taping, but I told Direk kahit gaano kahirap, ibubuhos ko na.”

Surviving “Lolong” has made Ruru believe he’s now capable of going through future hardship. “

“Malaki ang pinagbago ng buhay ko because of ‘Lolong’ kahit hindi pa siya pinapalabas. Bago ko pa gawin itong ‘Lolong’, hindi ko pinapahalagahan kung anong meron ako. Because of this project, sobrang bumalik yung fire, yung passion ko, yung commitment ko sa trabaho,” he said.

“Naibalik yan lahat ng show na ito because of all the problems and setbacks that we went through.  Natuto ako, tumibay ako. Kaya sabi ko nga kahit ano mang pagsubok ang pagdaanan ko, alam ko kakayanin ko dahil kinaya ko dito sa ‘Lolong.’”

The extra mile he put in was not lost on his co-stars, both the rising and the veterans.

“Kakaibang lider si Ruru. Dahil sa kanya, kaya kami naging ganito ka-close,” Paul Salas pointed out. “Kaya din gusto namin ibigay yung best dahil nakikita namin siya…parang ako na yung napapagod para kay Ruru. When we see his efforts, ayaw din namin mapahiya. Gusto namin pumantay sa kanya dahil alam namin kung gaano kahalaga sa kanya yung show na ito.”

As for acclaimed actor Christopher del Leon, he didn’t hold back on his praise for Ruru. “There’s a saying that the highest form of art is discipline – and he has that,” he quipped. “Without discipline, kahit magaling ka umarte, makikita yun sa trabaho mo. He’s all out, he’s in character, and you can see it in his work.

RURU MADRID

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