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paulo avelino

Scout - - contents - THE SOL­DIER Paulo Avelino on the crazy suc­cess of Hen­eral Luna, and how he stands in the throes of crazy suc­cess in gen­eral Pho­tog­ra­phy by RALPH MEN­DOZA Styling by JED GRE­GO­RIO In­ter­view by ROMEO MO­RAN


I can’t re­call any re­cent year, none at all, when lo­cal main­stream en­ter­tain­ment was in such a boom. Yes, fads come and go, and some­thing or other has al­ways struck the Filipino’s col­lec­tive fancy. From the masa to the bour­geois and be­yond (which ei­ther uniron­i­cally pro­fess their love—or at the very least, tol­er­ance—of the trendy or hide in some closet of class di­vi­sion) there’s al­ways been some­thing that takes over for a cer­tain length of time. The usual few months, two to three, give or take.

I’ve just never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing as pow­er­ful as 2015. The lat­ter half, to be pre­cise. The sheer force of its back-to-back hits is over­whelm­ing and amaz­ing. We have the sui generis love team AlDub (which had just cli­maxed ear­lier to­day, as I write this, in a mon­u­men­tal Eat Bu­laga! event in the Philip­pine Arena, which even ri­vals the gath­er­ings of the Igle­sia Ni Cristo, who owns the place), the sec­ond-big­gest on­screen item du jour in James Reid and Na­dine Lus­tre (care of On the Wings of Love), and the coun­try’s lat­est cin­e­matic tri­umph Hen­eral Luna, which had just run in the­aters for a stag­ger­ing six weeks.

Paulo Avelino, like many of his peers in show­biz, knows what that’s like. The one thing the Philip­pine fan­dom seems to do a lot bet­ter than any other fan­dom in the world is that it’s great at making each player look like a big­ger star than he or she really is, within the con­text of the prod­uct. Avelino’s Gre­go­rio del Pi­lar in Luna was so well-re­ceived, thanks to both the lm’s own mer­its and his own good looks, and this ac­claim so am­pli ed by so­cial me­dia that there was really no choice but to give the del Pi­lar movie the green light. (How could they not, any­way, when they set the se­quel up with a mid-cred­its scene wor­thy of a Marvel movie?)

Like the Boy Gen­eral, Avelino seems un­fazed by the frenzy that’s arose all around him. The pol­i­tics in Luna, he notes, is the same not only as the pol­i­tics of the present, but as well as in the pol­i­tics of show busi­ness. He is out here to do his job which, like del Pi­lar, is some­thing he is also stead­fast and pas­sion­ate about. What we have be­fore us, then, is a man who is cool in speech, re­laxed even as he’s cal­cu­lat­ing and strategizing, and unas­sum­ingly self-aware, af­ter hav­ing weath­ered the un­for­giv­ing jun­gle that is his pro­fes­sion. So I don’t think you’d wanna talk about your ca­reer story that much.

Yeah. Let’s talk about the movie. I’ve seen the movie—

Luna? Yeah. You’ve been pop­u­lar be­fore that, but what has the movie done for you? Well, I ac­tu­ally didn’t ex­pect it to be talked about by a lot of peo­ple. I ex­pected worse. Didn’t really ex­pect it to be such a huge hit, Hen­eral Luna. When it was rst of­fered to me—I au­di­tioned for the role of Gre­go­rio del Pi­lar, [di­rec­tor] Jer­rold [Tarog] made me read a love let­ter. I think it’s to Cora, one of del Pi­lar’s girl­friends. They said that if this does well, we might—there’s a big pos­si­bil­ity that we’ll do a se­quel show­cas­ing del Pi­lar. So, there.

But I can’t really tell if it really made a big im­pact on my ca­reer, be­cause I rarely check so­cial me­dia. I rarely talk to peo­ple about it; if I talk to peo­ple about it, I talk about the lm, the story, history. Well, com­ing from man­age­ment I heard it made a big im­pact. What was ev­ery­one ex­pect­ing when you were all making it, and af­ter you were done shoot­ing it? Well, it took a year to nally nish the script, al­most a year to shoot, and an­other year for post-pro­duc­tion. So ev­ery­one had high hopes that the lm would make it; if not, it would spark some­thing in the hearts of Filipinos.

Are you a history buff at all?

A lit­tle.

What did you know about, go­ing in—

—del Pi­lar? Well, not just del Pi­lar, but also the events, Luna. Well I knew chaotic, and there were a lot of sides, a lot of sto­ries, a lot of books writ­ten about cer­tain in­stances dur­ing Luna’s time, which might—or might not—be real. So it’s really hard to tell, be­cause no one’s alive to tell the story any­more. But yeah, it’s in­ter­est­ing, it’s in­ter­est­ing! It’s in­ter­est­ing how they tackle the role, they tackle the story. They didn’t really show a typ­i­cal hero, a typ­i­cal su­per­hero like one of our his­tor­i­cal gures, like a text­book or grade-school book ex­pla­na­tion. But once you get to dig a lit­tle more, it’s not that glam­orous. You re­al­ize it’s pretty much the same thing over and over, that’s still hap­pen­ing to this day. Do you be­lieve the events of the film? Do you be­lieve that was what hap­pened? Kind of, yes. Well, some, [were] maybe [made] for cin­e­matic pur­poses. there were sto­ries also that were cir­cu­lat­ing about Luna steal­ing a lump of money, or trea­sure. But you know, as I’ve said, it’s not some­thing—we couldn’t really tell if it’s true or not. So we might as well con­cen­trate on what Luna really is, and how he was: he was a bril­liant gen­eral, he was hot-tem­pered, and... he loved his coun­try. What’s your opin­ion on how the film and the script por­trayed not just Luna, but ev­ery­one in the movie? For the other char­ac­ters, you know, all of us were given a brief sum­mary of who our char­ac­ters were. One thing I like about Jer­rold is that he gives us free­dom to ex­press or be the char­ac­ter with­out bas­ing it on our history. Giv­ing your own per­sonal take on it. I saw your Twit­ter bio, and in the de­scrip­tion you said you were a cinephile.

A bit. Did you have to watch any­thing to pre­pare for this role? What kind of re­search did you do? To pre­pare for this? I read around two or three books. One was by Nick Joaquin, [ A Ques­tion

of He­roes,] and the other one was your typ­i­cal history book.

Is it sim­i­lar to show­biz? What do you think of how the film was re­ceived? I know you said you don’t check so­cial me­dia all that much, but other than light­ing a fire in the Filipino, it spawned an ob­ses­sive fan­dom, don’t you think? Yeah, it did, it did. Be­cause, you know, as I’ve said ear­lier, so­cial rel­e­vance. It’s the same thing, you know? A hun­dred years ago or more, there’s just tech­nol­ogy now, but the same thing’s hap­pen­ing. Not just in pol­i­tics, but in our daily lives, with work... ev­ery­thing! Yeah, a lit­tle. It is. It’s like I said, not just in pol­i­tics, but also in work. On our side, too. Is it as frus­trat­ing as what Luna had to deal with? Well, not really. You know, some­times, in our line of work, the fame is get­ting in the way of... how do you call it? Your artistry? What you really wanna do. Okay, we’ll talk about that later. I’ve got ques­tions about that. But aside from the so­cial rel­e­vance, there are—I don’t know if you’re fa­mil­iar with Tum­blr, or how fan­doms are, but there are cer­tain fan­doms that have sprouted up around—

—they make memes?

Yeah, yeah! There are memes; memes of you, memes of [co-star] Joem [Bas­con]...

Ev­ery­thing! How do you feel about that? Is that the kind of re­ac­tion you were ex­pect­ing at all to the movie? Not really, but you know, I really nd it funny. And cre­ative, also. But you know, I think th­ese memes also helped our lm a lot to spread the word and make peo­ple know that Luna’s out. It’s a nice lm. It’s in­ter­est­ing. But don’t you think they’re, in a way, not tak­ing the movie se­ri­ously? Or the mes­sage of the movie as se­ri­ously as they should? Not really. I don’t think so, you know. For sure, the peo­ple who made it, made it for fun. And also, as I’ve said ear­lier, it drew at­ten­tion. They helped the lm get pop­u­lar, in a way. Mov­ing on to the del Pi­lar movie, is that hap­pen­ing?


...Can you say if it is?

It is! It is. But...

Can I print that?

I’m not sure. (


Yeah. You can print it. But it was the in­ten­tion, wasn’t it? You guys put that Avengers scene at the end of the movie. Yeah, that last part. It’s hap­pen­ing. But it would take a few more years.

Why a few more years? Re­search, nal­iz­ing the script would take a year, plus pre-prod, shoot­ing’s an­other year, post-prod is a year, so in three years, maybe. Hope­fully. What are the big­gest things that get in the way of th­ese movies be­ing made? For this, it’s script and pre-pro­duc­tion. It’s a long process—you have to get your facts straight, you have to make it well-writ­ten, you have to give it a cer­tain ap­peal that wouldn’t feel like your bor­ing history class, and preparing. Preparing for the scenes, the shots, get­ting ev­ery­one’s sched­ule all to­gether. From what you’ve known about him, or I guess how you’ve por­trayed him in the movie, is there any­thing you iden­tify with del Pi­lar? With del Pi­lar? It was prob­a­bly his—he ob­vi­ously loved his coun­try, he al­ways re­spected his higher-ups. Ear­lier you said some­thing along the lines of the fame get­ting in the way of what you wanna do. I wanna get into that, but let’s start with del Pi­lar again. One of the memes that came out af­ter the movie is ba­si­cally the fans swoon­ing over you and your char­ac­ter, right? Do you think that that’s too much, that they’re kinda ob­sessed with how hand­some del Pi­lar is? No, be­cause del Pi­lar was really a hand­some guy, the way it was ex­plained in books or in pic­tures. The funny thing about del Pi­lar, he had a girl­friend in ev­ery town! Yeah, man! Ev­ery town he goes, the places he vis­its or he gets as­signed to. So lover­boy, in a way. Charm­ing. He was really a charm­ing guy. So... I don’t know if I’m that charm­ing, if you could com­pare my charm to del Pi­lar, but I think it worked. I think it worked! But do you feel that they’re look­ing into that too much and maybe not look­ing at, I don’t know, how he sac­ri­ficed him­self? You know... it helps the lm, but at the end of the day, the lm is the lm, and the lm would al­ways be true to its mes­sage.

“I don’t wanna

talk about main­stream, but in the main­stream [ I’m more known for] tele­seryes... but I’m lucky that I get to do other stuff that’s not stereo­typ­i­cal.”

Right, okay. Do you wish fans weren’t so pre­oc­cu­pied with the fame part of be­ing fa­mous? What you’re do­ing right now, what’s some­one else do­ing right now, or who some­one else is with right now, do you wish they weren’t so ob­sessed with that? Yes. As much as I ap­pre­ci­ate their help—in a way they have also been part of my ca­reer, from the start un­til now, and those who are... how do you say it, new to it, I guess—some­times they get too at­tached, and some­times they forget that we’re also like them. We also get hurt, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we do crappy stuff, we make a lot of mis­takes in this life. And some­times they act or they talk or they, like on so­cial me­dia, tweet or mes­sage you like they own you. Or they’re giv­ing you a com­mand. Which is, some­times, up to some point it’s en­ter­tain­ing, but some­times they get too at­tached. At the end of the day, they start bash­ing you, for ex­am­ple, if you don’t end up with your love team, or you date some­one else, or you just do some­thing stupid. Is that why you don’t check so­cial me­dia as much? Not really. A lit­tle, that’s one of the things. But you know, like now, my In­sta­gram ac­count, it’s more of me, ac­tu­ally, than my Twit­ter ac­count. Be­cause on Twit­ter, I use it to pro­mote; I do some­times on In­sta­gram, but on In­sta­gram, it’s just black and white. What’s the worst thing peo­ple have ever said about you on the news? On the news? Hmmm... what is it? You know, I think it’s when peo­ple start de­grad­ing you be­cause of your so­cial sta­tus. Me, I’ve al­ways been not really a happy-go-lucky, but a per­son of to­day. Of now. So it’s not like you have any plans or you don’t really see your­self suc­ceed­ing in life, but I’d like to cher­ish the mo­ment, enjoy the mo­ment, just live life for what it is. What you see now, what’s around you. At the same time, I also plan things; like now I got into writ­ing again, so hope­fully I nish a script.

You write scripts?

Yeah. Songs, po­ems. Peo­ple say some­thing about you be­cause they feel you’re not am­bi­tious? Not really. It’s like... I can’t ex­plain it. I really can’t.

But it’s not true, what­ever they say? It’s not. You know, I don’t really give a damn about money or fame. I’m do­ing all of this be­cause I like what I’m do­ing. I love act­ing. I’m in love with my craft. I just wanna do so many things in the fu­ture. There’s so many char­ac­ters out there I haven’t done, so many scripts oat­ing around, wait­ing to be pro­duced. Those things ex­cite me. I can’t wait to just do an­other project, to just be some­one else. For the roles you choose, how do you choose them? For the roles I choose, I have a lot of friends on the in­die side of cin­ema in the Philip­pines. Once in a while, they send me scripts and they ask me if I wanna do it, pro­duc­ers send scripts. Some­times it’s not really about the char­ac­ter. Some­times it’s a really beau­ti­ful story, whether you’re sup­port or you’re one of the cast, or you’re just part of it. You’ll be proud that you did those [projects]. Do you feel that you have a stereo­type right now? Yeah, there is. I don’t wanna talk about main­stream, but in the main­stream, [I’m more known for] tele­seryes... but I’m lucky that it’s not that stereo­typ­i­cal, the stuff I do. But there is a stereo­type. I don’t know if you can an­swer this, or if you’d like to an­swer this, but are you tired of be­ing a hunk? Yeah. I’m past those days. It’s nice to have a t and healthy body, but I’d really like peo­ple to see me as an ac­tor.

Which ac­tors do you take in­spi­ra­tion from?

There’s a lot. Joaquin Phoenix, Beni­cio del

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