Piolo Pascual, Enchong Dee's resemblance to ‘GomBurZa’ roles

The uncanny resemblance of Piolo Pascual, Enchong Dee, and Cedrick Juan to their ‘GomBurZa’ characters

/ 12:15 AM October 27, 2023

Piolo Pascual as Pedro Pelaez, Enchong Dee as Jacinto Zamora, and Cedrick Juan as Jose Burgos

(FROM LEFT) Piolo Pascual as Pedro Pelaez, Enchong Dee as Jacinto Zamora, and Cedrick Juan as Jose Burgos —PHOTOS FROM JESCOMTV

When placed side by side, the photos of actors Piolo Pascual and Cedrick Juan, and martyrs Pedro Pelaez and Jose Burgos, have an uncanny resemblance, according to “GomBurZa” director Pepe Diokno when asked why the two actors were picked to play these all-important roles in the said historical drama.

The film tells the courageous story of three Filipino Catholic priests who were publicly executed by garrote in Bagumbayan in 1872. It also features Dante Rivero as Mariano Gomez and Enchong Dee as Jacinto Zamora.


A production of Jesuit Communications (JesCom), the historical drama is an official entry to the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in December.


In a recent virtual chat, Diokno revealed that there were a lot of actors considered for the major roles. However, the role of Burgos was “quite tricky” to cast.

“In general, casting became a challenge for us because a lot of the lines are in Spanish. The actors had to be willing to put in the work to learn the language,” he began. “Since this is a historical film, there’s continuity. The actors couldn’t work on another project while doing the film.

“Lastly, the look of the actors was also important. Cedrick is the perfect choice to play Padre Burgos. He looks so much like the priest. His commitment to the role was something else, though. I’m so impressed and proud of him in this movie. Piolo also looks so much like Padre Pelaez, who looked like a movie star with very strong and chiseled features. Even the resemblance of Enchong and Tito Dante to their characters was uncanny,” Diokno added.

Dante Rivero as Mariano Gomez

Dante Rivero as Mariano Gomez

He also said it took a while to complete the cast because the film is not just about the three priests. “It also shows their effect on our society, so we had to cast soldiers and ilustrados at the time. It was literally a cast of many people. I’m happy that the people who are really meant for the project were the ones who came into the project,” the director said.

Diokno added that he had always wanted to work with Rivero, whom he last saw in Erik Matti’s action film “On the Job: The Missing 8.” “I made sure to ask him to join us here. It also happened that he is the same age as Gomez in the story. You know how they say that they don’t make stars like Tito Dante anymore? That’s true,” said Diokno. “I got to share stories with him in between takes. These were all precious conversations. He is also very meticulous, down to the details of the forks and spoons he used in a scene. He also contributed a lot into creating Gomez. I will always treasure my time with him while making this movie,” he said.

Improving characterization

Dee’s role as Zamora is one of the hardest, said Diokno. “Zamora somehow lost his mind. We had to dig deep into that in order to answer questions like ‘Who is Zamora really? What happened to this man?’ Adding to that was the fact that Zamora was actually a gambler. Props to JesCom for allowing us to tell the truth about him,” he began.


“Zamora was the most human among all the characters. He was flawed. He had a dark side and this comes out in the film. Enchong did a workshop to really define his character. Other than that, shooting with him was super breezy. He is the kind of actor who can easily go in and out of character,” said Diokno.

If he had his way, Diokno said he would include Piolo as a major cast member. “Pelaez is one of the unsung heroes in our history. You can really trace the relationship of Pelaez to Burgos, and then Burgos to Jose Rizal (national hero). If not for Pelaez, there would be no Rizal and no Filipino revolution as we know it,” he pointed out.

Diokno said his team really sought Piolo out for the film. Later on, Piolo was also asked to share his ideas on how to improve characterization. “He learned all of his Spanish lines. He had to do a monologue that’s probably five minutes long and it was purely in Spanish. He memorized it from start to end, with inflections. Our Spanish coach said his accent was flawless.”

The other minor cast members that Diokno thought were worth mentioning were Elijah Canlas, Tommy Alejandrino, and Arnold Reyes. “We put Elijah and Tommy together and they gave the film a different energy. They’re youthful and they sort of reminded me of today’s young people, who are very idealistic and want to change so much with our society.”

Reyes plays Sgt. Fernando Lamadrid, who led the Cavite mutiny in 1872. “He led the other actors in a big battle scene. It was an important action sequence,” Diokno pointed out.

Male-dominated film

Director Pepe Diokno


The director said he was aware of the fact that this is a male-dominated film and, therefore, has no central female character. Still, he made sure to point out that women were a part of the revolution. “That was one of the things that we talked about when we launched the project. At the time, the church was dominated by priests—I think it still is. Also, women weren’t allowed to go to schools then,” he explained. “It was really important for us to put female characters who helped our lead characters—we have nuns, we have indios from the different segments of society. Since this culminated in a revolution, we have female Katipunan fighters, as well.”

With the film premiering at the MMFF on Christmas Day, Diokno is confident that Filipino families will love to see it, “Because it talks about us as a nation. In all the special screenings that we’ve had, a lot of people end up teary-eyed. We’ve screened the film for students, teachers, and parents to get their feedback. They were all surprised with all the things they didn’t know about GomBurZa and history,” he pointed out.

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“GomBurZa” is Diokno’s fourth film, with “Engkwentro” (2009) being his debut project and “Above the Clouds,” second (2014). He also did “Kapatiran” in 2015.

TAGS: Cedrick Juan, Enchong Dee, GomBurZa, Piolo Pascual

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