MANILA, Philippines — Filming director Brillante Mendoza’s Bahay na Pula for its lead stars — Xian Lim, Julia Barretto and Marco Gumabao — was truly a new, if not surprising experience for all of them.

The three stars were given a rare opportunity to work with direk Brillante. They learned “best lessons,” both professionally and in personal life that they can also use in their profession.

“In a nutshell, I learned how to trust my co-actors or anyone that you work with,” Marco allowed. “Hindi sa lahat ng work natin, hindi lahat ng nakakasama natin ka-close natin or kakilala natin. At the same time, we always have to trust each other.”

Julia shared: “The things I learned from direk on and off set, on the set, I learned how to give an organic performance. Off the set, I always say this, enjoy the moment while we can.”

Xian recalled: “While we were filming, direk always told us, ‘Don’t give me a performance. Just give me something truthful, something real, something genuine.’ He played a really great part in our rapport as actors. It is important to just enjoy the moment, like what Julia remembered. That moment is all we had. So, we need to just enjoy and learn from each other.”

The cast was repeatedly surprised when the story was constantly altered by direk Brillante throughout their filming. “He gave us a new experience in filmmaking,” Xian said. “Nakakatuwa lang because he opened a new style for us.”

“The script was supposed to be set in stone. Pero tinanggal niya ‘yung dialogue and he allowed us to experiment,” he added. “We were not familiar with that style. We had no idea. He allowed the characters to lead. He told us not to perform. That was the No. 1 instruction. That really changed the whole film. He had a clear mission in his head.”

Marco Gumabao is one of the leads in the film.

Xian likes to process how they completed the film. “Every single day was memorable, because we didn’t know what to expect,” he shared. “The style of direk Brillante and the liberty he gave us were different. Coming up with our own dialogue and the collaborative process between the artists and the filmmaker were challenging.”

Julia said they didn’t know what to expect in the shoot every day. “Everything that was happening was just spontaneous,” she said. “I felt really overwhelmed but in a good way. I always looked up to direk but even more so now.”

“After watching the film the other night, I saw how much depth there was,” she continued. “It’s really not your ordinary horror film. It really gives you an experience. It’s just not really meant to scare you. There’s history and there’s a lesson to it. Meron ka rin matututunan tungkol sa kultura natin at mga nangyari sa panahon ng World War II. I’m just proud of this film.”

Direk Brillante wanted to get a “genuine” reaction from his cast. Hence, not only the script was not given to the cast, even the sequence treatment was removed, while they were filming in Pola, Mindoro.

“He wanted the reaction from us to be natural,” Marco said. “Sa music pa lang, matatakot ka na. So that proves how good of a director si direk Brillante and how good of a storyteller he is. During the shoot, you wouldn’t think the scene would come out in a certain way. This film will really take you on a journey. It’s really an honor to be part of this film.”

Working on Bahay na Pula was totally intimidating for Marco. “It was my first time working without a script,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know if I was doing the right thing.”

“The three of us, we tasted the fear of not having a script and just trusted direk Brillante. The collaboration of this project we were doing, we were given the freedom to do what we think the character would do. Feeling mo, you are partly a director also because your director gave you the freedom to react for a certain scene,” Marco shared.

Working with each other was the “best part” for Xian. “Being with Marco and Julia, marami kaming natutunan sa isa’t-isa along with direk. Doon pa lang, marami na kaming baon after we finished this film.”

Julia granted: “I had a good time making the film with everybody. More than anything, if I do have a favorite moment, probably it was our after-filming conversations. I think we all can agree to that. We could joke around and have fun. I appreciated all our meaningful conversations that we had with direk.”

Marco agreed with Julia. Their bonding after the cameras stopped grinding is what he will surely miss. “We learned so much while shooting with direk Brillante,” Marco said. “’Yung mga atake niya sa paggawa ng pelikula, na absorb na namin ‘yun. Spending time with each other for almost two weeks, on- and off-cam, naka-build na kami ng pamilya sa Bahay na Pula. Nakakatuwa talaga.”

Julia in a scene from the Vivamax movie.

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