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Getting to know today’s youth in ‘Ligo na U’

EDGAR Allan Guzman and Mercedes Cabral with costars of the romantic comedy “Ligo na U, Lapit na Me”

Erick Salud’s romantic comedy, “Ligo na U, Lapit na Me,” which won for lead star Edgar Allan Guzman the 2011 Cinemalaya Best Actor honor, will soon have a sequel.

This was announced recently by producer Noel Ferrer during the film’s special screening at the Inquirer offices in Makati City. The film, written by Jerry Gracio, is based on the best-selling novel by Eros Atalia, published in 2009.

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“Another book is coming out before the year ends,” Ferrer told members of Inquirer Film Club during the open forum. He added that the movie’s sequel would begin production soon after the book’s release.

“Ligo na U” tells the story of college student Intoy (Guzman), who is secretly in love with his schoolmate and friend Jenny (Mercedes Cabral), the most beautiful girl on campus. Their friendship takes on a special meaning when Jenny allows Intoy to go to bed with her—on the condition that they will not fall in love with each other.

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Intoy falls for her just the same and is devastated to learn that she is pregnant—but won’t say who the father is.

“It would be exciting to know what will happen to Intoy and Jenny in the new book,” added Salud. “I also want to find out if Jenny will have a new guy.”

“Ligo na U” is one of six Filipino films to be screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in October. Its local commercial run starts September 28.

Did you follow the book to the letter?

Salud: Yes, we did. (Gracio) just added some lines to update it.

Ferrer: (Atalia) is the most successful novelist since Bong Ong. This book is about the character’s endless ranting. Gracio simply put structure in the script.

We remember “500 Days of Summer” in this film.

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Salud: We’ve heard of that comment. The book was released at about the same time that “500 Days” was shown. People say this because “Ligo na U” also has graphics.

How did you come up with the cast?

Ferrer: That’s another issue. One member of the Cinemalaya screening committee didn’t like the cast we presented. He wanted to include more popular actors so we threatened to back out of the competition. He insisted on taking out Mercedes from the cast. We approached Lovi Poe. She said okay but was still committed to “Temptation Island” and “Captain Barbell.”

PRODUCER Noel Ferrer (left) and director Erick Salud. ROMY HOMILLADA

There were other girls, but none of them could do something this daring.

Salud: We also asked Pauleen Luna.

Ferrer: The committee suggested on casting (Miss World Philippines 2008) Danielle Castaño, but she doesn’t speak fluent Filipino. We said we’d pull out if Mercedes would not be approved. Unlike other actresses, she was willing to do the film.

We’re worried about how it will fare in the box office. It’s such a small film. We hope to attract more people through word-of-mouth.

How much did you spend for production?

Ferrer: Around P1.5 million. The major studios would spend P20 million for a romantic comedy. This is merely a beg-steal-borrow kind of film.

How many cinemas will screen it?

Ferrer: Around 25 to 30 cinemas. We will have theaters in Cebu and in some cities in Mindanao, but the concentration will be in Metro Manila. We’re up against a Star Cinema movie (“No Other Woman”). We don’t have big stars. We’re hoping people will help us promote it because this is such good material.

What were Cabral’s conditions before doing the film?

Salud: She just said ’wag masyadong babad ang mga shots. I promised I’d take care of her. She was doing a soap with ABS-CBN and she was worried her bosses would reprimand her. It turned out that her show’s unit saw the film and liked it.

How did Guzman’s injury affect the film?

(Prior to shooting the film, Guzman sustained third-degree burns after a go-kart racing accident while taping for a game show)

Salud: We had to reshoot some of the love scenes. He couldn’t move much when we worked on them during our first shooting day.

This is your first full-length. How was the experience? Will you be making more films?

Salud: Of course gagawa pa ako. It’s just that we were pressed for time when we made this film. I had to first finish “Mutya,” a teleserye for ABS-CBN. I just wish I had more time to prepare. We also had trouble with the schedule of our actors. Edgar was doing a soap series for TV5, while Mercedes was working with ABS-CBN.

My dream really is to make a movie for Seiko Films, ’yong may daring scenes. I said if I’d do something, I want it to be really different. I did “Rubi” for TV, it was daring but not as daring as this one.

Ferrer: I would like to thank the censors for the film’s R-13 rating. We couldn’t be screened in SM Cinemas if we got R-18.

How did your home network ABS-CBN react to the film?

Salud: I guess they liked it enough to get Edgar and Mercedes to do a couple of episodes for “Maalaala Mo Kaya.”

Ferrer: When Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, saw the film, he said it’s for people who want to understand the youth of today. The Hollywood film “Friends with Benefits,” naunahan na natin with this material. It’s true that young people today find it very difficult to say I love you to each other.

E-mail mcruz@inquirer.com.ph.

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