For actor Paulo Avelino, being part of “Ang Larawan” was an opportunity he simply could not miss.
There are quite a few reasons why any actor would want to be cast in the film. For one, “Ang Larawan” is based on National Artist Rolando Tinio’s Filipino translation of the play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” by yet another National Artist — Nick Joaquin. Aside from the film’s artistic value, it was an opportunity to work with the Philippines’ most respected and finest thespians.
The film boasts of a stellar cast led by Joanna Ampil and Rachel Alejandro, with Nonie Buencamino, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Cris Villonco, Sandino Martin, Robert Arevalo, Aicelle Santos, as well and Celeste Legaspi who, like Rachel, appeared and co-produced the stage adaptation close to two decades ago.
Rayver Cruz, Zsazsa Padilla, Bernardo Bernardo, Jaime Fabregas, Noel Trinidad, Dulce, Nanette Inventor, Cara Manglapus, Jojit Lorenzo, Leo Rialp and Ogie Alcasid shine in their respective supporting roles, making this a star-studded affair multiple times over.
Paulo wanted the role so much that he made the effort to audition for his part in what would be his first musical. He recalls feeling slightly nervous during the audition two years back, and still feeling slightly intimidated when he finally got the part.
“Hindi ko kabisado itong tubig na ito eh. Hindi ko alam kung malamig o mainit, para akong batang pumasok,” he said in a media interview after the film’s press screening.
He does, however, feel grateful from the mentoring he received from Celeste Legaspi who was his recording coach; Ryan Cayabyab, the film’s musical director, who gave him voice lessons within the span of three months; and director Loy Arcenas who helped mold Paulo into the character he portrayed.
“Buti na rin lang at puro mga beterano yung mga kasamahan ko. Malaking tulong at pride na rin.”
Paulo plays Tony Javier, the boarder of the Marasigan household who tries to convince sisters Candida (Joanna Ampil) and Paula (Rachel Alejandro) to sell the coveted painting of their father, Don Lorenzo, and tries to seduce the younger sister, Paula, in the process.
As one of the musical film’s principal characters, Paulo had plenty of chances to stretch his vocal cords, which allowed him to explore his capacities as a singer.
The 29-year-old actor confesses, “Nung nag-start kasi ito, my singing style was very different. So I learned that I could sing with a very husky rock voice, and I could also sing in an operatic way. Ang dami kong natutuhan sa voice ko na hindi ko kaya dati.”
Paulo also found himself awestruck by co-stars Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil.
He shares, “Ang sarap lang nilang pakinggan at panoorin pag kumakanta sila. Iba lang yung power ng boses nila. Nakaka-mesmerize, napapatulala ka minsan. Karamihan ng oras ng rehearsal namin, pinapakinggan ko lang sila.”
Being part of “Ang Larawan” was so important to Paulo that he agreed to be paid in kind for his role. Instead of monetary compensation, the actor got the painting (yes, “Ang Larawan” itself) that was used in the film but was barely seen by audiences. Producer Girlie Rodis later revealed that the painting can now be found in Paulo’s home.
He explains, “First musical ko and independently produced, so parang di mo na rin iniisip yung talent fee. At tsaka ‘Ang Larawan’ eh. Ang daming taong gustong magpapasok sa pelikulang ito. Sayang kung mami-miss mo yung ganitong opportunity na once in a lifetime lang dadating.”
Being cast in “Ang Larawan” has given Paulo a keen sense of fulfilment and a strong sense of pride.
He shares, “I’m very proud of this film. The script alone when I read it, sobra-sobrang pinagmamayabang ko na. And to be part of this cast, the whole film, all-star cast nga siya not just the cast, but the production team as well.”
Paulo made it clear during the interview that they were not looking to be the top grosser in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, but they do hope that Filipinos will find time to watch the film.
“Unti-unti nang nawawala yung kultura natin. Unti-unti na tayong nag-aabsorb ng ibang kultura. Parang hindi na natin nakikilala kung sino nga ba tayo. Dapat siyang panoorin dahil marami siyang sinasabi tungkol sa atin bilang mga Pilipino. Kung paano nawawala ang kultura natin; kung paano nawawala ang bayan natin,” he said.