MANILA — The third entry in a planned trilogy launched by the popular “Heneral Luna” in 2015 is still on track for release, producer TBA Studios assured fans of the linked historical films about Philippine heroes.
The acclaimed John Arcilla-starrer had a followup in 2018, “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral,” that centered on Gregorio del Pilar. Lead star Paulo Avelino reprised his supporting role in the original film.
Both installments were directed by Jerrold Tarog, who is on board to also helm the trilogy closer that will focus on Philippine president Manuel L. Quezon.
Tarog, however, is currently focused on “Mars Ravelo’s Darna,” Star Cinema’s film adaptation of the Philippine comics icon starring Jane de Leon.
Originally, the biopic about Quezon “would have been next in line,” according to TBA Studios president Vincent Nebrida — until Star Cinema tapped Tarog to direct “Darna.” Tarog’s involvement in the superhero flick was announced in October 2018.
“There’s always some give and take. They asked us, and we said yes,” TBA Studios founder Eduardo Rocha said, referring to the ABS-CBN Films company.
Tarog is a partner in Artikulo Uno Productions, the “A” in TBA Studios (alongside Tuko Film Productions and Buchi Boy Entertainment).
“We loaned him. Why not? I consider Charo a friend. I’ve known her a long time,” Nebrida said, referring to Charo Santos-Concio, former president and CEO, and now-chief content officer of ABS-CBN.
Nebrida was a script supervisor in the 1976 production of Mike de Leon’s “Itim,” which starred Santos-Concio in the lead role.
While Tarog is now busy with “Darna,” pre-production work on the Quezon film remains ongoing, Rocha told ABS-CBN News.
“We’re researching right now… Almost every book that was written about him (Quezon), we are absorbing,” he said.
Tarog has, in fact, been chronicling, on Instagram, his research materials about Quezon, including an autobiography and an electoral almanac, among others.
Once the filming of “Darna” wraps, Tarog will start developing the script of the Quezon biopic, according to Rocha. By 2021, cameras will ideally start rolling, in time for a possible release the next year.
The film will depict two timelines showing a young and old Quezon. In “Luna” and “Goyo,” Benjamin Alves and TJ Trinidad portrayed the late Philippine president at different ages.
“A lot of political satirism will be there,” Rocha said, noting that a significant part of the Quezon-centric entry will be set during the first general elections of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
“We had the fire of Luna, we had the flaw of Goyo. This one, we’ll have the fire, but it’s also going to be a satire on who really ran the Philippines,” he said.
Over the years since the release of “Heneral Luna,” the hero films by Tarog have courted a growing fanbase. They endearingly call the trilogy, the “Bayani Cinematic Universe,” fashioned after the massive fiilm franchise from Marvel Studios.
Officially, TBA Studios has never referred to its own film series in the same vein, but is not discounting the possibility, depending on the success of the upcoming third installment.
“We’re proud to be doing these films, whatever anyone calls it, whether it’s a tribute to Philippine heroism, whether it’s doing biographies,” Nebrida said.
“We feel proud of it, especially in light of 100 years of Philippine cinema, to be doing these films that we feel can still be watched generations from now. That’s the kind of legacy we’d like to leave behind,” he said.