HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 02, 2012
I will not be coy, or shy about this, and I am not holding back. I am absolutely thrilled that the movie I Dobidoobidoo, produced by Unitel, is currently showing and making quite a stir among those who have seen it. It is not your usual Filipino film. It is a musical written and directed by the young award-winning Chris Martinez who has given the movie-going public such great movies like Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, Kimi Dora, and Here Comes the Bride. And Danny, Boboy and I are a big part of this effort.
Tony Gloria of Unitel, a long-time friend, thought of this project after watching Mamma Mia! on Broadway some 10 years ago. He was inspired to do something like it using OPM and thought of the APO repertoire as the vehicle. More than five years later, he called and asked if we could meet for lunch. He broached the idea to me, but instead of a stage musical, he wanted to do a movie.
Prior to that, there were other interested parties who had approached the APO suggesting an original stage musical using our repertoire of hits. Back then, I was lukewarm to the idea. Maybe I was too protective of the APO songs which were already considered as having attained a kind of “legacy” status. It also did not give me confidence that not a single person or group who had expressed interest actually submitted a script, not even a synopsis of the play.
I felt more open to Tony Gloria who had produced the movie The Crying Ladies which generated critical reviews. But I needed more convincing. At our meeting, Tony shared his idea of how he wanted one of the songs to be interpreted, which I found rather amusing. I began to lighten up. He also said that he would be commissioning someone to make the script soon.
“Soon” actually took almost a year. When I finally got the script for review, I began reading it at around 11 p.m. Close to 3 a.m., I was still wide awake and riveted. I was so convinced it was a winning movie script deserving of APO’s material. I knew because I found myself laughing experiencing that warm glow of “truth recognition.” It felt real, not contrived, even if the whole effort of trying to make sense of varied hit songs and weaving them into a musical story is a contrivance in itself. The story flowed and had that charm that goes with good creative work.
The script by Chris Martinez captured the feel- good appeal of APO’s songs. Our best songs have, after all, been simple musical statements that try to capture the Filipino experience of love, friendship, heartbreak, and humor expressed in colloquial language that the public finds easy to identify with. When we wrote our songs, we made sure they were not only easy to like but also had elements of surprise and delight.
The next day, I met Chris Martinez for lunch. After talking to him, I was sure that the project was in the best hands possible. He was also going to direct it. I liked it that Unitel, was behind the project and not the usual big producers or production companies who had stables of stars, directors, and writers who had to be kept employed. I remember Tony telling me when we first met about the movie that he wanted to make films he could believe in and personally enjoy. I was therefore confident that the slimy hands of artistic compromise would be tied and prevented from mangling the story, or treating the songs in ways that would demean them or make them dull and predictable.
I now felt that the project had moved significantly forward. I was under the impression that the movie would be ready in a few months for people to watch in theaters. But there were more delays. There were a few important details in making a movie that Tony Gloria had to settle, such as funding, casting, auditions, getting contracts signed, making down payments, getting a production team, and scheduling, etc.
The imposed deadlines were not met. I was getting frustrated, but I could understand that productions can and do suffer a few snags. Finally, more than a year after I read the script, Tony called to inform me that the cast was complete. When I heard that Gary V, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Ogie Alcasid, and Eugene Domingo would play the main characters, I was absolutely delighted. He informed me that the other members of the cast, most of them admittedly new names to me, all had to audition.
When the big production meeting came, I finally met Vincent de Jesus, the musical director of the entire effort. We were going to hear the music, more or less already arranged and close to final form, for the first time. Chris and Vincent had been in constant consultation about the treatment and Vincent had put in a lot of effort into the arrangement and recording of the minus ones. He was clearly nervous as he fumbled to get his iPod connected to the speakers. I was nervous too, and told myself to calm down and make sure I was totally expressionless in case I did not like what I was going to hear. I told myself there was still time to make adjustments if I did not like the music.
When the songs were finally played, I was speechless. They were recreations that sounded new, fresh, with different beats, orchestrations and treatments. I was amazed at how Vincent brought the songs to new interpretations I had not heard or foreseen. Best of all, they were playful, daring, and had that quality I associate with good musicals. They were animated, exciting, and had flair. I absolutely loved what I was hearing. When it got to Panalangin and everyone in the room spontaneously sang with the music, my eyes swelled with tears of appreciation.
During the actual shooting of the movie, which took six months, I hardly visited the set. I wanted to see the project only in its final form.
I watched the completed project for the first time last Aug. 24 at the Resorts World viewing room with Manny Pangilinan, Channel 5 executives, and some of the performers in the movie. I sat beside Chris Martinez who promised not to preempt the scenes and spoil my enjoyment. A few days earlier, there was a screening for the press and I heard how enthusiastically supportive and appreciative they were. They gushed about the movie in their columns and reviews. During interviews, they made it known to us that they really enjoyed the film. One of them called it “a breakthrough” in Philippine cinema. While I was pleased to hear all of it, the cynic in me took in everything with a grain of salt.
But I was floored upon viewing the film. Not even the positive reviews were adequate preparation for what I was to see. I was totally captivated from beginning to end. I was one with the audience as we sang, clapped, laughed, cried, cheered, sighed all throughout the movie. The story, music, directing, acting, singing all came together into a wonderful, funny, touching, moving musical movie experience. Everyone was ecstatic with praise after the viewing. MVP, in an after-show interview, said he thought it was better than Mamma Mia!
What Tony and Chris have come up with is a unique Filipino experience, a movie that is not only excellently and adroitly executed but is 100 percent ours to enjoy as Filipinos. It was made by us, for us, and it is something we can really be proud of. But beyond the nationalistic aspect, it is great entertainment that is so easy to appreciate and enjoy.
On the way home that evening, my thoughts went back to some four decades ago when Danny, Boboy, myself, and a few other friends got together to sing for the sole reason of meeting girls. At that time, we had no idea nor did we speculate about where it would all lead to. We just wanted to sing, write and use our music as “chick magnets.” Simple dreams they were that led to bigger ambitions and great fulfillment.
I feel so blest that our music has been given a new venue to be played and appreciated, this time in the form of a very well-made musical for whole families, from both the old and new generations, to enjoy. I have seen the movie twice and I will watch it three or more times just to enjoy the audience.
Everyone who was part of this effort clearly loved it. I am convinced more than ever that things we do for love are imbued with creativity and positivity. The love we put into what we do generates love or attracts love in its direction. We created and performed our music for 43 years and ended our performance as a group two years ago. We had a great run which we did with love, passion, and a lot of fun. I am overjoyed and grateful that the love and the music are still playing.