EL PRESIDENTE’s Prestigious Ensemble
Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
Lt Chacon (Baron Geisler) storms into the hall while the Cabeza de Barangay Emilio Aguinaldo (Jeorge E.R. Estregan) has a meeting. Chacon is livid looking for his carriage and screaming in Spanish how the indios had not prepared it. Aguinaldo responds calmly but in Tagalog, “Bastos ito a, bakit di ka sumasaludo?” (You are uncouth, why do you not give your salute?) Still in Spanish Lt Chacon responds, “Is there anyone here I need salute to?” Aguinaldo points to the portrait behind him, the Reina Rigente. Chacon gives his salute but responds, “I will be watching you Aguinaldo.” Little did he know that Aguinaldo was already one of the leaders in the Katipunan.
One of the most difficult tasks for a director is striking a balance between history and dramatic license. Mark Meily as writer director of EL PRESIDENTE was able to create enough drama and action to keep audiences at the edge of their seats while having historic credibility. With that said almost any historical piece always has controversy or critics. A film in particular will always have to make a statement one way or another and not everybody will agree with it.
What is undeniable is the impressive roster of actors and technical people assembled to put this epic film to the silver screen. The seven awards during the Metro Manila Film fest awards night bear this out: Best Supporting Actor: Cesar Montano, 2nd Best Picture, Best Make-up: Warren Munar, Best Theme Song: Apl D’Ap and Jamir Garcia of Slapshock, Best Musical Score: Jessie Lasaten , Best Sound: Albert Michael Idioma, Youth Choice Award and Best Float.
The official EL PRESIDENTE soundtrack for example, combines one of he biggest Filipino acts internationally in Apl D’Ap with Pinoy Rap Metal god Jamir Garcia of Slapshock. Combining the two big acts made for a sure fire Best Theme Song award winning song. Apl recently collaborated with Jessica Sanchez for the single JUMP featuring travel spots in the Phil. Seeing Apl’s spiky Mohawk while wearing kawal uniform was a great contrast in the video.
EL PRESIDENTE and ASIONG SALONGA also with Jeorge E.R. Estregan remind me of the song “Somewhat Overindulgent” from Forbidden Broadway performed by Lorenz Martinez in Upstart’s local production. Martinez is also in Resort’s World’s “King And I” extended until May 2013. “Somewhat Overindulgent” is a spoof of Mandy Patinkin’s one-man act sung to the tune of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
Estregan is both the producer and lead actor, similar to nearly all MMFF entries in this respect. It’s almost a tradition: Si Agimat, Si Enteng at si Ako, Sisterakas. It also happens in Hollywood obviously: Tom Cruise – United Artists, Drew Barrymore – Flower films. So that makes EL PRESIDENTE even more commendable by choosing an important historical Filipino figure no matter how self-indulgent it may be.
Nora Aunor is one of the big names in the impressive cast list. She plays Maria Agoncillo the second wife of Aguinaldo Maria Aguinaldo after his first wife Hilaria Del Rosario (Cristine Reyes) passed away. Nora’s diminutive stature came in handy especially when first meeting Aguinaldo. She was playing the daughter of Felipe (Alvin Anson) and Marcela (Maita Ejercito) Agoncillo who were close friends to the much older Aguinaldo. Since her ‘parents’ and Aguinaldo seemed to tower over her she got away with looking the youngest among them. Make up in the later scenes where Aunor and Estregan grow old is the achievement of Warren Munar who won the Best Make Up award for his efforts.
Cesar Montano as the fiery Supremo Andres Bonifacio won the Best Supporting actor award. But there were so many notable performances in the film not all of them had big roles. Felix Roco was the young and heroic Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar. Roco’s boyish looks but quiet intensity was useful for his portrayal of the valiant figure.
GMA Network will also air an 8-part docu drama on Andres Bonifacio entitled KATIPUNAN with Sid Lucero as lead star this year. The series was produced as part of the 150th anniversary of the hero’s birth known as the Supremo. Incidentally, Lucero also has a role in EL PRESIDENTE as Gaudioso.
Another period piece this time a TV series entitled INDIO is also from GMA network stars Bong Revilla, Jennylyn Mercado, Rhian Ramos, Agot Isidro and many more. The character revolves around a Filipino child adopted by Spanish conquistadors more than a hundred years earlier than the time of Aguinaldo and Bonifacio.
Among the prestigious cast of EL PRESIDENTE is Ronnie Lazaro. He is the ever-faithful Candido Tirona who also became one of the revolutionary generals. Candido is Aguinaldo’s childhood friend who’s there through thick and thin. His advice and presence was something that he relied on during many battles. The close circle of Generals includes actors: Bayani Agbayani (Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo), Gerald Ejercito (Gen. Crispulo Aguinaldo), Allan Paule (Gen.Tomas Mascardo), Emilio Garcia (Gen. Pio Del Pilar), Wendell Ramos (Gen. Mariano Noriel) and John Arcilla (Gen. Mariano Trias).
The Quizon brothers had an opportunity to work this film. Even though they did not share scenes their late father Dolphy would certainly be proud of them in these historically significant roles. While Epy Quizon has had more awards, Ronnie Quizon had a larger more distinguished role in Apolinario Mabini. Ronnie played the wise adviser known as the Sublime Paralytic. Epy was the journalist Clemente Jose Zulueta whose numerous articles on the Phil revolution have become the basis of many historical texts. Zulueta bravely covered the battle scenes and interviewed Aguinaldo, Bonifacio and other Generals.
A huge cast of actors was needed to produce the epic. Actress Suzette Ranillo did a wonderful job as casting director. The list includes talents that have achieved critical acclaim and recognized with awards but are not as popular with mainstream audiences: Perry Dizon (Pedro Janolino), Archie Adamos (Luis Aguado) Jess Evardone (Severino Delas Alas), Joonee Gamboa (Ambassador Felipe Buencamino), Soliman Cruz (Maximo Incoencio), Lou Veloso (Julian Felipe), Yul Servo (Pedro Paterno), Hero Bautista (Major Lazaro Macapagal), Allen Dizon (Col. Simeon Villa), Gary Estrada (Col. Jose Tagle), Wil Devaughn (Col. Agapito Bonzon), William Martinez (Dr. Santiago Barcelona).
Favorite Bad Guys
Tisoy (Fair skinned) actors were cast in the antagonist roles as the Spaniards: Christopher Deleon (Gen. Antonio Luna), Baron Geisler (Lt. Chacon), Ian Veneracion (Gen. Ernesto Aguirre) and even Tony Mabesa (Gen. Echaluche). Baron used his bad guy image to the hilt, his character Lt. Chacon was one of the ultimate rivals on the battlefield for Aguinaldo. John Regala as Padre Agustin played the abusive monk. While Padre Damaso was known for raping women, Padre Agustin beat sacristans.