Why Joshua Garcia agreed to go ‘shirtless’ in thriller ‘Mama Susan’ | Inquirer Entertainment

Why Joshua Garcia agreed to go ‘shirtless’ in thriller ‘Mama Susan’

/ 12:15 AM May 23, 2023
Joshua Garcia

Joshua Garcia

While “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan” director Chito Roño and producer Roselle Monteverde said they had originally planned for the mystery-thriller movie to be shown on the big screen, they both admitted to being aware of the drastic change in the viewing habits of the Filipino audience after the pandemic.

“This was why we opted to have it released via a streaming app,” said Roselle, co-CEO of Regal Entertainment, during a recent special screening of the movie starring Joshua Garcia and Angie Ferro.


The film, based on the 2010 mystery novel by Bob Ong, has been streaming on Prime Video since May 18.

Joshua Garcia and Jewel Phiona Raymundo

Garcia (left) and Jewel Phiona Raymundo

“The local audience’s behavior and habits changed as a result of the pandemic. They now prefer to just stay at home. This was why streaming apps have become popular since 2020,” Roselle pointed out. “Another good thing about it is that it caters to a much wider audience. We all thought it’s a better option because people from other territories will be able to watch the film, too.”


Meanwhile, Chito said he regretted that his masterpiece would not be shown in cinemas, “But I don’t mind that it didn’t make the cut of the last two MMFFs (Metro Manila Film Festivals). I still prefer for people to watch it in movie theaters, it’s just that I don’t have a say where it would be shown. I’m just its director,” he said.

Easy access

Scenes from “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan”

Scenes from “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan”

Joshua, who plays the lead character Galo, added: “I’m satisfied with our producer’s decision to release it via streaming. It means easy access to those who want to see it anywhere they are. If you’re at home, you can just turn on your TV. You can also use your gadgets if you’re on the road,” he explained.

Chito then recalled the challenges they had to face while shooting the movie in 2020, during the strictest implementation of the pandemic lockdowns. “We actually started filming before the pandemic so we were able to shoot crowd scenes in a school. We first inquired about a location in Bataan province. When we returned there, the local government unit (LGU) said it was no longer allowing outsiders into its town. We had to look for another place that would accommodate us,” he said.

“The house of Mama Susan had to be changed, too. This was because the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines) demanded that we inform them of our shooting schedules. Let’s not even talk about other LGUs we contacted and had already said ‘yes,’ only to turn us down after some time. Shooting was still so difficult back then,” the director added.

Scenes from “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan”

Scenes from “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan”

Chito also took note of two cast members who had already shot most of their scenes, but later died of COVID-19 infection. “They both died in April and we resumed shooting in June. If they’re watching now, I hope they like what they’re seeing,” he told reporters.

Chito also said he and novelist Bob Ong had to make necessary changes to the story. “The novel’s ending felt lacking. While this proved effective for the novel, it left terrifying thoughts to its readers. Bob decided to make a different ending for the screenplay, and this had a different effect, too,” Chito said. “It’s frightening to think this was written some 10 years ago. But it’s like the book predicted what is happening now.”

The story revolves around Gilberto “Galo” Manansala, a college student who is tasked to make a journal by his professor. In his entries, he describes how daily scenarios mysteriously turn into scary situations, and how he gets deeply involved in them and, in the end, is unable to escape them.


The film is Joshua’s first project as a solo lead star. He said he tried feeding off the emotions expressed by veteran actress Angie Ferro, who plays Mama Susan. “I’d like to think that she also drew energy from me. We had to work closely on this project,” he pointed out. “I’ve changed a lot since I started working on this movie in 2019. I was just 22 then. Bagets na bagets pa. It was also my first time to work with Direk Chito,” said Joshua, who would later collaborate with Chito on Mars Ravelo’s “Darna.”

Simpler life

Chito Roño

Director Chito Roño

“They said Direk Chito is such a terror at work, but he wasn’t to me. He did make me take off my shirt for this particular movie. He didn’t have a hard time convincing me to do it. I agreed because it knew that it was needed in the scene, even though I didn’t have a perfect six-pack to show off. At the time, I still loved eating so much,” he said, laughing.

“I’m just happy with how my career is steadily moving. I’m simply enjoying the process. I go where it takes me. I don’t turn my back on any job offered to me. It’s an honor to have worked with Direk Chito under Ms. Roselle. Before this, I had long been curious about what it’s like to make a project with Regal,” he said.

At this point, Joshua was asked to differentiate his “2019 self” from that of his “2023 self.” To this, he said: “I’ve changed a lot. I was very emotional then. I can’t say that I’m more mature now but, yes, there’s progress. I now prefer to live life simply. I’ve learned the importance of taking care of the people I value the most—’di kasi lahat may care sa ‘yo.”

Joshua recently sold his luxury vehicles, his Triumph Bonneville T150 motorcycle and his two-door muscle car Dodge Challenger. “I’m more practical now. Mas simple, mas OK,” he explained.

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