They never really said who they were dozens of men with M16 rifles; they could have been CAFGU, the military or even the rebels. To the family of Manuel (Bon Andrew Lentejas) barely 5 years old all they knew was that they should be scared when they descended on their isolated nipa hut in the mountains. The children huddled together with their mother Dionisia (Alessandra De Rossi) as the strange man (Alvin Anson) approached her. He asked for food and politely wondered if she had seen other armed men in the area. Although their own resources were scarce, Dionisia readily gave them even the fish she had been cooking for her own brood.
Everyone knows about the poverty in Manny Pacquiao’s childhood. But here in this latest biopic directed by Paul Soriano. We see that violence was something that surrounded him even as a child. Living in the remote areas of Southern Cotabato, the Pacquiao family was no stranger to armed conflict raging around them. They could have been one of the many people, victimized or lost their lives in the many battles between armed groups and the Philippine military (not unlike what happened with SAF 44 in Mamasapano).
Extreme poverty, violence these are just a few of the things People’s champ Manny Pacquiao had to overcome as a child. The film’s story highlights the many unknown people that have aided, molded him into who he is today. The difference between KID KULAFU and other biopics that have already been produced is that it never shirked from the difficult and painful past of Manny. It actually sheds light in even more adversities that he and his family faced.
Credit should be given to writer director Paul Soriano and screenwriter Froi Medina. They sought out the many details and experiences that shaped not just the Greatest Filipino fighter but possibly the Greatest Boxer of all time. These are the seminal experiences that built his body, strength and most of all his character.
That’s how KID KULAFU succeeds it brings us to that time and place when his life was hard. This is his humble roots and daily problems that millions of his countrymen experience to this day. That’s why he’s become a strong symbol of hard work, love of family, the Philippines and even faith in God.
Struggling Parents: Alessandra De Rossi & Alex Medina
Rosalio (Alex Medina) for example has always been accused of being an absentee father to Manny and his brood in many articles. In this film however we see that he tried to be a responsible and even caring parent. Rosalio’s meager wage was never enough to provide for his family, which was a constant source of conflict.
Alessandra De Rossi’s performance as the very outspoken Dionisa was nothing less than powerful to the point of accurate realism. To call Aling Dionisia a nag would be an understatement. But considering the state they were in and her own efforts in providing for the family, you can hardly blame her for being that way too.
Due to their youth and long history of realistic portrayals in Cinemalaya you could see why Alex Medina and Alessandra were cast as Manny’s parents. Medina gave Rosalio an all too human face, especially when he could no longer bear the daily tirades and left the family. It wasn’t a justification for him leaving nor was it an attack on Dionisia but rather recognition of the dire situation they were in.
One thing that Dionisia passed on to Manny in spite of all the poverty and ignorance was the gift of FAITH. She wanted him to be a priest, but even as a young boy helping feed his brood he knew that it was next to impossible. The Lord had other grand plans for him. So no matter the adversity Manny knew that the power of prayer was something he could rely on to overcome them.
Buboy Villar’s Steely Determination
Buboy Villar is the perfect age for Manny in KID KULAFU. He was young enough to be boyish and old enough to throw and take punches. He was on the cusp of manhood trying to survive in a very harsh and unforgiving world. Buboy was also in a boxing film in Cinemalaya that featured kids made to fight sometimes to the death by an underground syndicate. It was entitled: CHILDREN’S SHOW directed by Roderick Cabrido and written by Ralston Jover. More important than the physical preparation for that role, is the mental state of desperation that pushes someone to get into boxing or underground fighting.
Buboy was actually a famous child star; he has a strong semblance to the Manny Pacquiao of that age, with pugilists’ nose and somewhat thick lips. His frame and body size is almost exact of the gaunt Pacquiao from old black and white photos at age 16. In spite of the not so intimidating physical features it’s the steely determination in the eyes that Buboy was able to replicate. The film rested on Buboy’s young shoulders and he more than lived up to expectations.
Boxing Coaches: Cesar Montano and Jake Macapagal
Sometimes there are people in your life who change you, who set you onto a path. Usually you don’t even know it while it’s happening, you only realize it looking back. Tio Sardo (Cesar Montano) is one of those people for Manny. He is Dionisia’s cousin and for Filipinos, at least one relative or extended family always have a strong influential role. Since Dionisia’s unofficial separation, she had to seek the help of her cousin in providing for her 4 growing kids: Isidra (Iris Sanchez), Manuel (Buboy Villar), Bobby (Niño Robert Bayungan) & Ruel (Patrick Carrera). Buboy Villar’s younger brother Christian Dave played the toddler aged Ruel.
Tio Sardo was obsessed with boxing. Manny’s first glimpse of the sport was through an old Betamax tape of an aging Mike Tyson about to be KO’d by Buster Douglas. Sardo’s passion was infectious and needless to say was fire in the eyes of an adolescent Manuel. Jake Macapagal’s role Dizon on the other hand was the very first real boxing coach whose son Abner (Jomari Angeles) became Manny’s teammate and close friend.
Given the limitations of running time we know that not all details could be included. Congressman Lito Atienza however is an undeniable figure and influencer in Manny’s life that was omitted. His youth boxing program as Manila mayor was one that saved him from the streets. Manny openly considers Atienza as a second father. Perhaps it could be rectified with the sequel.
The cast is actually composed of great character actors much loved on stage, TV, movies and the indie scene: Lou Veloso (Mang Polding), Ruby Ruiz (Midwife) Jess Evardone (Boxing Promoter), Garry Lim (Mang Boy), Flor Salanga (Miss Remy), Archi Adamos (Mang Ising), Leon Miguel (CHDF Soldier), and Mel Kimura (Mrs. Farcon).
Two distinguished film directors are also in this prestigious list, also as actors: Jun Urbano (Mang Emong) and Efren Reyes Jr. (Mang Ben).
IF only to witness the greatness that is to be Manny Pacquiao, fans should see this film. The information is accurate and detailed enough to be a resource for all sports writers and biographers alike.
KID KULAFU will also be distributed to theaters in CANADA and U.S.. Click on this link for cities and release dates: http://abscbnpr.com/untold-story-of-manny-pacquiao-revealed-in-kid-kulafu/
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