In less than three weeks leading up to the “fight of the century,” eight-division world champion Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao is set to inspire the world as he steps away from the spotlight to reveal his humble beginnings in the movie entitled “Kid Kulafu.”
It is safe to say that Filipinos from every corner of the globe have become witnesses to Pacquiao’s ascent to stardom whether in the ring or at the courts. The truth is, however, not a lot knew him before his claim to fame as “Pac Man.”
In the biographical film presented by ABS-CBN, Star Cinema, and Ten17 Productions, director Paul Soriano brings his audience once step closer to the roots of Pacquiao’s earlier years—a struggling amateur and pro boxer, and a dejected teenager—at the heart of Saranggani, General Santos City.
As Manny shared to Direk Paul, “All the pain and the knockouts I experienced in boxing were just physical pain. But you know what’s more painful? It’s the fact that you have nothing to eat, no home where you can rest, and having a broken family. And I endured all those when I was young.”
Pacquiao almost never happened. The scrawny kid from Kibawe, Bukidnon stood no chance against the obstacles life threw at him, until he started punching down banana trees, thanks to the urging of his uncle Sardo.
According to Direk Paul, “Kid Kulafu” has been three years in the making with two years dedicated for extensive research about the Pacquiao’s childhood.
“Pambansang Kamao” and “People’s Champ” are among the many nicknames the professional boxer has earned in the ring, but away from it, the one that does not get heard a lot makes known, more than any other name will, about who he is, namely Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao.
How fitting to know that “Dapidran” is a warrior tribe in the mountains of Bukidnon, all the more emphasizing his nature as a fighter.
“Viewers will get to know a young boy who had nothing but attitude, passion, and fighting spirit to face every challenge head-on and knock it out one by one,” said the critically-acclaimed director.
Aside from catching a stroke of luck in discovering his doppelgänger of the past, Sardo needed someone who could train the kid like Roger, Pacquiao’s uncle turned trainer to coach to father figure.
This is where Buboy Villar, the actor who plays the young Manny Pacquiao, and head trainer Erwin Tagle step in.
“Kailangan kasi mapalapit kami sa training ni Pacquiao. Sobrang hirap po kasi sa isang araw, dalawang beses ako bumalik sa gym kasi kailangan mo talaga ibuo yung katawan,” shared Villar who underwent serious boxing training in preparation for the film.
To pack some muscle in that light frame, Tagle developed a program that would put Villar in the gym two hours, four times a week for three consecutive months.
As the lead choreographer of the fights, he spent a tremendous amount of time to do research, delving deeper into the moves that made Pacquiao who he is today—namely the left straight punch and fist combinations. This is of course on top of the partner drills and movements that the twosome practices to simulate the actual fights.
“Gusto namin na sanay siya sa mga movements na suntok-ilag-suntok-palitan-dikit, so finamiliarize ko siya para lang maging kumportable sa bawat action scene namin. Ayaw namin na pag sinuntok, pipikit o iilag siya,” disclosed Tagle.
The Past At Present
But the difficulty of recreating scenes of several years away pushed both Soriano and Tagle to be creative in making it as realistic as possible to even the single most minute detail of every bout.
“Basta si Direk Paul gusto niya na itong idea dapat believable, organic, at mukhang totoo. Dapat ramdam nung audience na sila ‘yung lumalaban,” said the Martial Arts aficionado and entrepreneur. “Before going to the choreography, dapat ‘yung mindset namin pang international ang peg.”
“Si Buboy kasi parang sponge, may skill na mag-absorb ng kung anong role ang gagawin niya. Talagang Pacquiao ‘yung training at commitment niya,” added Tagle. “Actually, pwede naming mas galingan pa, pero hindi pwede kasi dapat medyo raw pa. Nandun ‘yung special left straight niya at ‘yung tapang kaso di pwede ‘yung magaling yung footwork o umiilag na siya agad hanggang sa nadiscover na siya ni Freddie Roach.”
With that said, the lack of footages from Pacquiao’s amateur fights led to the team being creative in patching second-hand accounts from the man himself.
“Binigyan nalang ako ni Direk Paul ng story. Si Manny ang nagkukuwento what happened during his fight—Masmalaki ‘tong kalaban ko,’ ‘mas-mature tong kalaban,’ ‘underdog siya,’ ‘nahilo’t natumba siya sa sobrang galing nung kalaban,’ ‘napagod lang,’” shared Tagle.
Rise Above Adversity
Knowing that this movie could set ablaze a nation as they march towards supporting their very own against the undefeated Golden Boy, the group focused on their efforts to deliver the best film possible with the highest of international standards in mind.
“Every time may ginagawa kami everyday kahit puyat, kahit pagod, kahit ilang takes, kahit masakit na yung suntok ng mga boxer, tuloy pa rin kami kasi on the same page kami. Isang eksena, isang fight scene, pwede ng bumuo ng isang movie sa dami ng takes kasi lahat perfectionist. Tapos nung makita namin ‘yung preview, sa sobrang galing, nakakakakilabot,” said the Brazilian Jiujitsu practitioner. “Gusto ni Direk na tumabi si Manny sa boxing greats ng mga pelikulang Ali, Raging Bull, at saka Cinderella Man.”
With life’s odds stacked against him, Pacquiao simply had no chance. All his fights, despite that of the amateur level, were intense, greater even than the pressure of any Game 7 any finals could ever have replicated.
“Isipin mo kung matalo siya, di siya aabot kung saan siya ngayon so every fight life and death talaga,” said Tagle. “Underdog siya sa lahat ng fights dito pero kahit ginugulpi na siya na parang wala ng pagasang manalo, dinala niya pa rin sarili niya sa tapang at determinasyong walang katulad.”
Portraying Manny’s parents Dionisia and Rosalio are award-winning actors Alessandra de Rossi and Alex Medina. Also part of the cast are Cesar Montano, Khalil Ramos and Igi Boy Flores. “Kid Kulafu” is written by Froilan Medina and under creative consultant Amor Olaguer and the aforementioned fight director Erwin Tagle.
The biggest sports drama movie of the year, “Kid Kulafu,” is set to hit cinemas nationwide on April 15.
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