Continuation from Part 1…
PART 2: A JUMP INTO THE VOID
Written by: BOMBI PLATA
Edited by: Katrina Tan
Despite the doubts, I cannot deny the fact that this was a very special project I cannot turn my back onto. Upon reaching Bilbao, Spain, two major problems presented themselves right away. Spain’s guardia civil (think Jose Rizal) detained us when they uncovered the “sword of Loyola” from Leo Velasco’s (Production Designer) luggage. While the people in the arrival department of the airport started to thin out, we were held for questioning as we waited nervously. They asked us to open all the baggage that was with us, and assemble all the props that we have brought in front of them . When they got convinced that the swords have blunt edges, and after proper documents were presented, they eventually let us “indios” out of our “carcel”.
The Sword of Ignacio, which was detained by the customs.
Second, what was far worse than being held captive by the guardia civil was that it dawned on me that I will have to face the grim reality of wearing my underwear’s side A and B in the next couple of days. My maleta decided to take a tour of Paris on its own! Blame it on the crazy airport transfer schedules during international flights.
After many hours of tailbone-crushing air and land travels, we reached the Basque country where our Spanish counterparts warmly welcomed us in a castle owned by an ancient noble, which eventually evolved into a modern-day inn. They graciously offered us wine and sumptuous culinary delights fit for a king! For a brief moment, my problems disappeared– only to realize that this feast was just the calm before the storm.
Some Spanish wine and culinary delights!
In the next couple of weeks, after our director Paolo Dy and his associate, Cathy (his wife), arrived, we immediately went on location hunts throughout Northern Spain– from the frontiers of Navarra, to the ancient cathedrals of Pamplona, and to the castles in Sos del Rey Catolico. We viewed the fields of golden landscape atop the bell towers of Monasterio de la Oliva in Carcastillo, traversed the Bardenas rock formations (where Game of Thrones shot the Dorne and Dothraki scenes), braved what they call “witches caves” of Zugarramurdi, and drove up to the foot of the majestic Pyranees mountain range separating Northern Spain and Southern France. I got to see up close the nooks and crannies of our chosen locations, and most especially the insides of the caves and castles where ordinary tourists are not allowed to enter. This was pretty cool, right? But there’s more! I was allowed to drive the production Renault van all across the European countryside. (Here’s a trivia for you: The Philippine driver’s license is honored for two months in this side of the world.)
Atop the bell towers of Monasterio de la Oliva in Carcastillo.
The scenic Sos del Rey Catolico!
The beautiful Zugarramurdi.
The majestic Pyranees mountain range.
In between these ocular inspections and pre-production meetings with the Spanish crew, we conducted acting workshops, castings, and costume fittings in Madrid. We also scoured the medieval towns of Toledo in search of alternative sword props. The whole time, production design, set constructions, and fabrication were in full swing!
Sword sourcing in Toledo.
Swords in Toledo.
For the first time also, I got to meet Andreas Muñoz, the man who, at that time, would embody the complexities of the great saint, Ignacio de Loyola. What struck me was his unassuming demeanor, his professionalism with his self-imposed level of perfection, and his openness to the process without any complaints at all. I have observed that Andreas’ confidence was rooted from his years of training in theater and film, but more so, from his family’s all-out support, which I have witnessed when they visited him every now and then on set, even as far as the Pyrenees. We all saw how their family was tightly knit, which was very likely of a Filipino family.
Andreas and his very supportive family with Bombi.
Here’s another trivia: like most of the Spanish crew, we were the first Filipino filmmakers that Andreas met. And you know what? They even asked us if Filipinos were still angry with Spain because they colonized us for 400 years! We could only say, “nakamove-on na kami, amigo.”
While we were fast closing in to our first day of shooting, the pressure was mounting incredibly because the bulk of our major sets and props have not been released by the customs of Spain yet. At this point also, Fr. Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, S.J., the head of JESCOM, with Fr. Louie Catalan, S.J., were having a hard time scouting for a proper warehouse for the tons of props we brought in with us.
The production department, at this time, was busy finalizing the list of requirements needed such as scouting for a huge herd of sheep, to giant cheese wheels and crusty bread— all of which should be faithful to the period– while every free hand was asked to do minor stitching on the wardrobe (yes, even the producers needed to do some stitching).
However, the most pressing challenge at this point was when the director of photography, Lee Meily-Briones, learned that her technical requirements could not be completed as she requested. Thus, she needed to readjust her lighting design, and make the most of what she had with just a short amount of time. And for me, this was her shining moment! Her brand, that of the Filipino ingenuity of organically working with the given conditions, pulled us through and still achieved an obra maestro.
Cinematographer Lee Meily-Briones on set.
At this point, I was taking everything in, and incorporating all the adjustments for the production battle plan with producers Pol Mangilog, Ernest Tamana, and director Paolo Dy.
I stepped back and saw the whole team working at wits end, doing their best to provide what was needed for the war ahead.
It was then that I knew that what we had was not enough.
To be continued…