Genuine in his persistence in purpose and tempestuous urge to elevate his craft, read an excerpt about this month’s MEGAMan cover star Piolo Pascual.
A confession: I have never seen a Piolo Pascual flick save for the first Kimmy Dora movie where he had a brief cameo. But suffice to say, I was not exactly ignorant of his dramatic aptitude. In 2002’s Lagarista, critics lauded his gritty performance in a 90-minute film that did very little to highlight his more titillating qualities, giving his theatric capacities a much-deserved spotlight. It then came to no surprise how a young Piolo Pascual would soon have a shelf filled with acting awards after his work with Dekada ‘70. And this was soon followed by more decorous opportunities.
By 2013, Pascual had been to the Cannes Film Festival— twice. Manila, which paid homage to local film greats Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, toured several international film festivals. And On the Job, Erik Matti’s neo-noir action thriller earned a lot of raves for its engaging and high-octane narrative. On both occasions, Pascual held admirable mettle. And the former glory of teleseryes past has been replaced by an earnest artist’s yearning for meatier roles he can
sink his teeth into.
The last few years have been slower for the reclusive artist, acting roles considered. But this is a benefit enjoyed by a few actors in Pascual’s league, who can now be more selective when it comes to projects. Consider also how engrossed and eager he can get when it comes to working behind the scenes. And the amount of work he pours into these things does not come out on Wikipedia pages. So when I tuned in to My Amanda, I wasn’t exactly bereft of the knowledge that this was a product of Pascual and Alessandra de Rossi’s collaboration. Spring Films produced the feature for Netflix, and Alessandra wrote her own directorial debut. It was a heartwarming film that closely mirrored their tight-knit relationship off-screen, the roots of which long predates this onscreen coupling.
In 2016, the two would work together on Lav Diaz’s eight-hour opus, Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis. By now, both Pascual and De Rossi have merited the regard of the indie film community. From Berlin, where the film won an Alfred Bauer Prize in the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, they would soon head to Amsterdam, where Pascual shares Kita Kita was first pitched.
“And then fast forward to Kita Kita. She wanted to do a film as a gift to me. And so she wrote My Amanda. And we were together in Since I Found You (2018 ABS-CBN primetime drama with Pascual in a Mark Darcy-esque role) so we were always working together. We became really good friends. And I guess that’s what we were able to transcend in this film,” Pascual shares fondly. “And it’s true friendship. It just happened before our eyes, and we didn’t realize that we could actually blow it up into film. I think that’s what happened.
While much of the film was done by 2018, it was only in 2019, when Netflix expressed interest. “We had a deadline, of course, with Netflix. It just dragged on because of the pandemic, but it was right on schedule, from the time they said, ‘We’re going to acquire the film and do a global launch.’ That was a big deal for us. Because you’re not just going to be seen here in the Philippines, but you’re going to be marketed abroad,” Pascual says proudly.
The team understood the challenges that lay ahead. “Alessandra is very meticulous,” Pascual confides, soaking in genuine admiration. “This is her soul. This is her work. So she was very definite in terms of what she wanted, close to being a perfectionist.” And after hurdling every obstacle in two years, they were all satisfied with the final product. My Amanda encapsulates an extraordinary journey of a platonic relationship in a series of crests and troughs of handpicked memories that elicit a fondness for comedy in the mundane, beauty in agony, and hope despite everything. It was heartfelt.
Photography SEVEN BARRETTO of STUDIO 7 MNL
Creative direction NICOLE ALMERO
Grooming DONNABELLE MAGBOJOS
Styling TON LAO
Production design ERWIN BOTIN
Photography assistant CLAUDE VILLAHERMOSA
Shoot Coordination ERICA LUNA and LOUIS ESGUERRA
Special thanks to ERICKSON RAYMUNDO, JEFF VADILLO, GIAN CARLOS and LIZ ALVAREZ