While the end of Gaya Sa Pelikula still lingers within, Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan are making their breakthrough matter—one meaningful story at a time.
There is a moment within the space of emotional relenting and recollection when your senses become acutely perceptive and hyper focused. Perhaps in an effort to obscure the feelings that have consumed your body beyond physical exhaustion, everything else becomes heightened—the sound of your heart beating, the sight of the dust dance settling in the midst of heavy-handed silence, the touch of someone near and most likely dear reaching out to which you promptly flinch. In the seemingly simple, this is when it all clicks, and an aggressive wave of realization smacks you to clarity. Suddenly, everything is painfully real again, especially when the looming certainty confronts you from the reflection of the television in front of you.
Before the story being punctuated by hope, this is where we last see Karl and Vlad. Obviously coming undone, the two stubbornly hold their ground, wrestling with pace of their truths in every lingering gaze and bated breath. Obliging to that one last time together, things are clearly not what they once were, but you see them both try for the other. It may not have been the reunion our hopeful, hopeless selves imagined, but it was just right for their would have, should have, and could have. Here, with the underscoring of true-to-life wisdom in Gaya Sa Pelikula, the orchestrated work of fiction becomes fact: You finally see yourself, maybe for the first time in this light. At this point it becomes clear, this is your story.
Even better? You are in charge of how it ends, too.
Not A Game Of Chance
From the reclamation of romance as authored and advocated by and for queer people to the stretched out space of white and silver, we catch Ian Pangilinan challenge Paolo Pangilinan to a round of rock-paper-scissors. Yes, just like in Gaya Sa Pelikula where they would play the game to see who ends up washing the dishes. This time, however, there are no dishes piling up on the sink, just an exercise of chance on who gets to step up to have their solo shots taken first. Paolo lost.
“Until now I’m so surprised of the attention that Gaya Sa Pelikula has gotten. I still am trying to get used to the messages and yeah, the attention what with the success of the show,” says Paolo Pangilinan in our online call that as the young actor, medical student, Avignon ambassador would attest, was at the mercy of spotty third world internet connection. “While we were filming, what we really focused on was just trying to make it as genuine as possible. My ultimate goal then was just that if one gay kid would see this, and would find it possible for him the I believe that I would have done a good job.”
That one kid would become a whole lot over the course of the digital series. While he would have been happy if his family and friends had seen the show, the response would become increasingly heartwarming with the influx of messages on social media, email, and even actual letters. “They identify with Karl and sometimes they see the struggles are similar to theirs. So, it helped them accept who they are even with themselves,” he says, taking into important account of the responsibility now thrust into him for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan Passing Through
“If somebody in the audience sees the movie and decides, na parang: oh my god, I can relate, or like, I feel like this movie understands me, or gets me, that would mean a perfect job,” offers theater and TV actor, and Avignon ambassador Ian Pangilinan whose rectangle pops up on the main screen of the Zoom interface. “And that’s the kind of job for me, to make movies and series to make people feel they’re less alone in this world.”
“One of my favorite actresses, Laura Dern, said something along the lines of: You know, it’s a story and it’s a life that we portray, and we as actors are just lucky to be passing through,” the young actor says. “I don’t think I have sole ownership over this huge story and beautiful narrative that was displayed. I’m just really thankful that I was able to pass through it. You know what I mean? More than my own feelings about it, I’m just happy with the effect that it had on people. And that’s really why I do what I do. So, I’m very, very lucky to have passed through. And I credit the work to everybody who worked so hard on it, because it couldn’t have been made possible without them.”
But Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan weren’t just passing through. Unbeknownst to them, together of course with the writer, Juan Miguel Severo, the director, JP Habac, and the rest of the Gaya Sa Pelikula team, they were about to be thrust into the spotlight. But more than just the glint, gleam, and glimmer that befits a breaking out and breaking through, all eyes were on them, especially by a community made to content themselves with space in the outer margins of the page.
Learning From Gaya Sa Pelikula
Parched for a presence in a plane perpetuating only the perceived truths and age-old dictates of a deliberately unjust, supposedly progressive society, the LGBTQIA+ community found a respite in Gaya Sa Pelikula, with Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan portraying a nuanced reality to earnest and devastating perfection. But while an entire audience, queer or not, had the most to learn, as well as unlearn in navigating the conversation of concerning the lived experiences of the community, this immersion informed and inspired them profoundly.
“It reinforced stories like these are not timely anymore, but long overdue. This is what I needed when I was a kid. I needed to see Karl. I thought, people would learn from him and then eventually I came to realize that I, too, could learn a lot from seeing Karl develop into who he is, who he is yet to be,” muses Paolo Pangilinan. “But as a kid, I needed to know that these narratives can be made for us.”
While he essayed the role of Vlad, someone seemingly acclimated in his liberty with a chip on his shoulder, Ian Pangilinan would realize the power of looking at individual stories, as opposed to herding a community into a generalized whole. “This universal concept of for you to be a good member of the LGBTQIA+ community you have to come out, you have to be loud and proud,” he says, was just one side to the prism of distinctly diverse individuals. “But in the character of Karl, that’s where I saw the different kind of strength from different members of the queer community who don’t necessarily fight with a fire, but with a quiet strength. It really has everything to do with the person fighting their battles and it’s something you don’t see much of.”