In our continuing conversation with Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan, they reveal the purpose to the pursuit of their passions.
In as much as we’ve convinced ourselves that Ian Pangilinan is Vlad and Paolo Pangilinan is Karl, they are way more than their characters. Beyond bearing the brunt of these expanded truths, as well as of the beloved manifestations of cumulative catharsis, it is their connection to the story and the community that the show has encouraged that allows them to thrive in the space they have carved out in the highly contested and ridiculously crammed business of show. In the industry they have now been indoctrinated to, Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan are not here to exist just for your mere entertainment. For them, there is a whole lot of purpose to their persistent pursuit of passion.
“The thing is, as much as movies and series are there to entertain, they’re also like one of the primary taste drivers of the general public. And what that means is what is shown somehow subconsciously crafts what is deemed acceptable in the eyes of the public,” explains Ian. “Some encounters that they have with people are portrayed onscreen. For a lot of members of the audience, some of them don’t live through those experiences. So, they are only able to learn through movies and series.”
Adding to this train of thought, Paolo says, “It reminds me of our purpose in Gaya Sa Pelikula, which is to drive a message. You have to make it work through the medium. Sabi nga ni Ishmael Bernal, ‘You have to make people feel first before and then think.’ You can’t make people think agad before they feel, because we don’t go into this world all the time concretizing everything. In the end, it has to be pure as possible. And what’s left is makes it true to our purpose.”
The Responsibility of Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan
“Therein lies the responsibility of telling stories the best and most authentic way that you can. The importance of widening that perspective and making sure that all of the stories are served, are layered, or are done justice is to foster a better sense of understanding amongst the public beyond just, you know, entertainment,” asserts Ian Pangilinan. “You can see even in something as simple as a superhero movie, di ba? The good triumphs over evil and that’s why we know, you know, good will always win, eventually.” Meanwhile, as our conversation leans towards heroing and championing stories of the community, Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan become disarmingly honest.
“For me, they are still novel concepts to me. I feel like so many people have done so much and fought harder than I have, admittedly. Me being able to tell these stories…I feel like I’m standing on top of the shoulders of those who have come before me to be able to see the horizon and to let others see,” says Paolo. “As an actor and as a spectator, I tend to support stories that I see that have been crafted that adequately portray the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ community. Right now, I believe that responsible storytelling through living the experience the best way you can is the way to go do it. I don’t think people should punctuate it, because it’s an ongoing, evolving conversation.”
For Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan the parting words of Gaya Sa Pelikula holds very much true. “Nasa labas ang totoong laban,” the show writes, alluding to many things, including the fight for SOGIE Equality and Anti-Discrimination. And this is what serves as their guide stepping into what is a generally uncharted, often vicious territory.
Just Like The Movies
While Gaya Sa Pelikula, along with the other BL Series that have emerged in the country and in the Asian region over the past year and more of surviving this punishing pandemic, is a step in the right direction for narratives of the queer sort to graduate from something niche and novel to normal, it shouldn’t be the end all and be all in the quest to educate as it equally entertains.
“It is also a result of the collective struggle and efforts of those who have come before us. I still think that people up until this day, and from here on out, should keep on watching an eye on for me, and for the people involved in these projects to keep advocating for these causes so that other people can stand on our shoulders and eventually have better opportunities and an improved quality of life,” declares Paolo Pangilinan. “I believe that people should keep holding me accountable. Like, Gaya Sa Pelikula should not be the end of me trying to portray stories of LGBTQIA+ folk.”
“We as actors and artists are vehicles for stories, now serving a bigger purpose here. Now that it has grown the way it did, I feel the responsibility for me had been greater because more lives have been touched. Also, more people are now expecting that these stories continue to be told well. I humbly accept the responsibility, willingly, and with a purpose that I hope the next one of my kind wouldn’t have it as hard.”
It’s true, representation matters, especially in queer stories, and this is something that actors like Paolo Pangilinan are willing to tirelessly advocate. Turning emotional, with tears welling up in his eyes and his speech stalled and stammered,” he muses, “It’s a huge responsbility for me to stay on their screens and keep doing what I do, make amazing stories…I just want it to be easier for the next me.”
You Are Not Alone
Coloring this conversation even more, Ian Pangilinan adds that his responsibility to the craft and community is filled with decided intention. “I think it is really for me break the stereotype of gay portrayal in popular media, especially in the Philippines, of course. Because you know, a lot of gay characters are portarayed as comic relief or the butt of the joke, and in some forms, so needlesssly promiscuous to the point that it drowns out other aspects of their lives, as if that’s their defining feature. And as somebody who has a lot of LGBTQIA+ people close in my life, I want to show those kinds of people onscreen that they are layered, they are real people with real struggles. They are not just to be laughed at or gawked at sexually. They have beautiful stories that deserve to take space and be told.”
Reiterating the desire to make at least one person feel less alone, he describes the parallel of experience he had when watching his favorite animated film, Lilo & Stitch, to how his work on Gaya Sa Pelikula has affected a significant population of the community.
“When I was a kid, I loved Lilo & Stitch right? That movie made me feel understood even from the outside looking in and it made me feel my struggles are not just my own,” he recalls. “I’m very happy that people have something like that in Gaya Sa Pelikula—a piece of work that reminds them that they are not alone, that there are people out there, people like Karl and Vlad who goes through the same things as they do. It’s basically all those people in the past who didn’t know they could have something like this…they can finally have it.”
Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan Are Just Getting Started
While the fate of the little things, such as who gets to shoot first or who does the dishes, are left to a one-in-three possibility in each round, Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan are making sure their future isn’t left to chance. Decided and dedicated, they are committing themselves to stories that matter the most, such as understanding identity and queer love, among many things.
“My goal is to continue achieving, which is you know, putting out characters that people hold memorable, because I do believe in the power of that. Who were some of the iconic characters that we remember and incite discussions about? Those characters are what I hope to continue putting out in this world, because I’ve only started. It’s not a dream or a goal per se, but it’s a continuous process,” expresses Ian Pangilinan, to which Paolo Pangilinan fittings punctuates, “I don’t think I’ve ever used proud as the word to describe how I felt, but when I come to think of it, yes, I am proud,” he says.
“It’s been amazing to see how Gaya Sa Pelikula has been embraced, but we have to recognize that this is just the tip. There are so many people in the spectrum who didn’t see Gaya Sa Pelikula, but when it comes down to it, you have to make them feel first than think, but I am proud, very proud. Now, I’m more challenged, and it’s very exciting to see where this leads, because a lot of things are not over yet.”
In fact, things are barely just beginning. So, we will keep on watching, yes?