Three dreams come true in ‘First Love’

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  • He’s his, she’s his, and he’s her dream come true—but this piece is not a lesson in English grammar. Rather, it’s about three well-known showbiz personalities who finally get to cross out a long-standing entry on their respective bucket lists, once cine¬mas nationwide open today.
    They all have a single story to thank for a career goal achieved, simply titled, “First Love.” It’s about a reserved businessman named Nick Gutierrez and an impulsive and optimistic photographer named Ali Castillo, who meet by accident in one of the streets of cinematic Vancouver. They find each other when Nick is brooding as he seeks closure over his life’s disappointments, while Ali, who is seriously sick, remains hopeful she will soon be next in getting her cure.
    Together, they challenge life’s setbacks by seizing the moment, taking risks and ultimately giving one another a new lease on life.
    “This is the story that finally got Aga Muhlach to say yes to me,” related maverick director Paul Soriano. A third-generation showbiz scion, with the legendary actor Nestor de Villa for a grandfather and director Jeric Soriano for a father, the 36-year-old creative revealed at First Love’s media launch that he had long dreamt of casting the ‘80s matinee idol-turned-sought after leading man in a movie project.
    “Just to give you a bit of history, the first Filipino film I ever watched was ‘Hotshots,’ and it was a movie directed by my father, starring the Aga Muhlach,” Soriano whose young but notable filmography is comprised of “A Journey Home” (2009), “Thelma” (2011), “Kid Kulafu” (2015), “Dukot” (2016) and “Siargao” (2017).
    “So growing up, I’ve always dreamt of working with Aga, but with the knowledge that you have to earn your right to work with him,” he continued.
    “Long story short, as family friends, Aga was always very accommodating when I’d call him or come up to him with story pitches. After several attempts, where he’d end up telling me, ‘I want to work with you but with the right story,’ I realized that Aga’s strength as an actor lies in love stories, and the stars finally aligned when I came to him with First Love.”
    Drawn to Paul’s story pitch, Aga said he knew First Love was the right material for his comeback to the romantic genre.
    “As you know, I’ve only just returned to the [moviemaking] scene [with ‘Seven Sundays’ in 2017] after a very long time, so it was very critical for me to choose the right love story so I don’t shortchange the viewers at this point in my career, and Paul finally gave me that with First Love,” he agreed.
    But before he truly made Paul’s dream come true, he first had to make sure his would too.
    “Besides the material, choosing the right leading lady is also critical so I had one condition in finally accepting Paul’s offer. I told him, ‘I want to work with Bea Alonzo,’ and it turns out he also had her in mind for the role of Ali,” Aga smiled at the recollection.
    “If you ask me why Bea, in the past years of living a regular life away from showbiz, I’d still keep an eye on what was going on in the biz, and who’s doing what. And all that time, whenever I saw trailers of Bea’s movie, I’d say to myself, ‘Men! Magaling talaga ito ha!’ Naniwala ako sa trailer ginawa niya—yung love story na ginawa niya—and I said to myself if and when I go back to making movies, I want to work with Bea Alonzo.”
    Thankfully, when Aga personally called the 30-year-old movie queen of her generation, Bea said yes and made his dream come true.
    “I texted her first, ‘Bea may I call,’ and when she said yes, she picked up the phone and said, ‘Kuya!’ After the shock factor na tinawag niya akong kuya,” Aga the 49-year-old dramatic actor laughed, “I was thrilled to hear her say the timing was perfect since she was wrapping up a soap, and that she’d do the movie.”
    Little did Aga know at that time that his call likewise made Bea’s dream come true.
    “Actually, when I got his text, I was on the road tapos bigla kong sinabi sa driver ko, ‘Huminto ka! Tatawag si Aga Muhlach!” Bea confessed her excitement. “I was trying to be calm but he also sounded excited telling me about Paul’s story pitch.
    “I said yes right away because pangarap ko talagang makatrabaho si Aga but I thought hindi na pwedeng mangyari kasi marami na siyang nakatrabaho na ka-generation ko sa showbiz. He already worked with Angel (Locsin), Anne (Curtis), Angelica (Panganiban)… so akala ko talaga this opportunity would never come,” Bea related.
    “Siyempre, when Aga Muhlach offers you to do a movie, you say yes, and natupad din ang pangarap ko.”
    With all the stars aligned indeed as Paul put it, First Love is no doubt the season’s most awaited Filipino movie, with the industry itself eager to see what an Aga-Bea tandem will bring to the big screen.
    Venturing an answer, their director, visibly humbled, proclaimed, “They will see what I saw every day while shooting in Vancouver. I witnessed greatness—that which always makes actors as vulnerable as possible. So they bounced off each other as great actors do in bringing this story to life, and I consider it a great honor to have experienced that greatness.”
    First Love also stars Edward Barber, Albie Casino and Sandy Andolong, produced by Paul’s Ten17 Productions with ABS-CBN Films—Star Cinema and Viva Films.

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