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Baptism of fire

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It was believed some decades ago that the last seven days before ordination are most dangerous for deacons. It’s said the devil supposedly works hard to haunt and tempt them out of the priesthood. In order to keep them safe and far from worldly desires, the church sends them into a house of seclusion.

From left: Ronnie Alonte, Dominic Roque, John Vic de Guzman and JR Versales (mb.com.ph)

From left: Ronnie Alonte, Dominic Roque, John Vic de Guzman and JR Versales

This premise will be played out on the big screen via the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry “Seklusyon.” Given that it touches on faith and agnosticism, some people wonder how it will be received in a predominantly Catholic country.

Sharing their thoughts on the matter are the film’s young stars Dominic Roque and Ronnie Alonte.

According to Dominic, though the film was wholly created “for the sake of art,” he admitted it includes some scenes that might raise the eyebrow or “offend” (as he put it) the church.

“Ako personally may mga scenes ako na na-iisip na pwedeng maging objection(able) sa church pero hindi namin gustong bastusin or sirain ’yung institusyon,” he said in a recent press interview. “Para sa akin, art lang talaga.”

Ronnie has the same thoughts maintaining they had no intentions of being “rude” or “disrespectful” to the church or anyone.

“Wala po kaming gustong masaktan or magawan ng issue,” Ronnie noted. “Kasi ang pelikula, art po ’yan eh. Hindi namin po iniisip na may masasagasaan or may masira na tao o institusyon.”

Two versions

Set in 1947, “Seklusyon” is about four deacons (played by Dominic, Ronnie, John Vic de Guzman, JR Versales) sent to a seclusion house where they are haunted by their personal demons. Further wreaking havoc on their already disturbing situation is a mysterious nun (Phoebe Walker) and a young girl with miraculous healing powers (Rhed Bustamante) who soon join them in their seclusion.

Aside from being part of this year’s MMFF, “Seklusyon” was also the Philippine entry to the non-competition Hidden Dragons section of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao (IFFAM).

Dominic disclosed that the film has two versions: The Philippine version and the International version.

Asked to differentiate between the two, the young actor said, “Mas may mga sensitive na scenes sa International version. ’Yung maseselan na scenes, tinanggal dito sa local version para maging appropriate ito sa mga batang manunuod.”

Dominic admitted he was a bit disappointed with the deletions, describing the cut scenes the most intense part of the film.

Note that a scene involving Dominic with butt exposure was also cut from the local version of the film.

“Nu’ng pinanuod namin ng buo ’yung film, masasabi ko na iba ’yung pagka-intense nu’ng mga scenes na natanggal,” he revealed. “But siyempre kailangang gawin ’yun para makakuha kami ng mas madaming audience.”

Young blood

John Vic, JR Versales and Ronnie are newcomers in the showbiz industry.

John is 23 years old, stands 6’2”, and a volleyball varsity player from Calamba, Laguna. He said he has always dreamt of trying his luck in showbiz.

“Bata pa po ako ay pinapangarap ko na talaga na maging artista. Tapos habang nanunuod ako sa TV, sabi ko isang araw sana dumating din ’yung time na mabigyan ako ng opportunity na ganito,” he said. “So nu’ng sinabihan ako na kasali ako sa ‘Seklusyon,’ grinab ko talaga ’yung opportunity.”

On the other hand, JR is a moreno model from Cebu. The newbie is also thankful to have been given the opportunity to work with Erik Matti who helms “Seklusyon.”

“Siyempre hindi mawawala na medyo kabado ako kasi nga po first time, tsaka medyo hirap din ako sa tagalog dati eh, pero nu’ng nag-start na kami mag-shooting, naisip ko ‘Ah kaya ko naman pala.”’

Meanwhile, Ronnie has consistently been gaining followers since joining the all-male dance group #Hashtags. He thinks it is his dedication to work that attracted the blessings coming his way.

“Hindi ko rin po kasi pinapansin ’yung mga pangit na sinasabi sa akin basta work lang ang focus,” he maintained. “Siguro kung may mga projects na dumadating sa akin, iniisip ko na regalo sa’kin ’to ng Diyos.”

Learnings

Dominique shared Erik is not one to let them simply do what they want on a given scene.

“Tutok si Direk Erik sa’min, actually binibigyan niya kami ng background dun sa role , hindi ’yung basta kami na ’ung bahala sa eksena kaya sa tingin ko mas nagawa namin ng maayos ’yung role,” the actor said.

It’s a good thing Erik allowed them time to establish camaraderie before the cameras started rolling.

“Sinabi po ni Direk Matti, mas maganda kung kunin namin ang loob ng isa’t-isa, mas okay na maging komportable kami sa set. Iba daw kasi ’yung kapag komportable ka sa set, mas magagawa mo ’yung mga eksena ng mas maayos and natural,” Ronnie related.

He added: “Kailangan magkakaibigan talaga kami para pagdating sa eksena, hindi kami nagkakahiyaan. And ako kasi, baguhan lang ako pero hindi ako ma-iilang kahit na magkamali ako kasi magkakaibigan kami, alam kong hindi kami maghuhusgahan (sa isa’t-isa).”

Penned by screenwriter Anton Santamira, “Seklusyon” also stars Lou Veloso, Elora Espano, Jerry O’ Hara, and Teroy Guzman. The movie opens on Dec. 25 in cinemas nationwide.

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