The fantasy-adventure-comedy genre is represented by Vhong Navarro’s starrer, Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim, at this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The movie will delight family and friends, like its 2017 prequel Mang Kepweng Returns, and remind them of comedy icon Chiquito and his well-loved character.
“I feel privileged because this is my very first movie that had a part two,” said Vhong of how special his latest movie is, compared to his other equally-important big screen outings in a recent virtual media call. “Spirit Warriors had a part two but I was starring in it with my (dance) group (Streetboys). This (latest installment of Mang Kepweng) is a continuation of the first that I starred in. Kumbaga ang sarap (ng feeling) na nagustuhan ng tao, nagustuhan ng producer at nagtiwala muli.”
Given the audience’s patronage and the producer’s trust, Vhong took on the role again and became part of the team that created the Mang Kepweng part two. “I worked with the writers and director (Topel Lee) para pagandahin at palakasin (ito).” They thought of ways to challenge Mang Kepweng, also known as MK, in dealing with Joross Gamboa’s villain Maximus Tolonges, who stole the itim na bandana (the black bandana) from the Kingdom of Engkadia.
MK continues on with his traditional faith healing, shared Vhong. But with his newfound popularity, MK’s attitude towards his self-worth undergoes change. “Nagkaroon siya ng yabang o hangin sa katawan (He has become conceited). He thinks he can do everything because of his popularity and doesn’t need help from friends. Later on, nagkaroon ng problema yung red polka dot bandana, it is losing its magical powers. This leads to the appearance of the black bandana.”
Part two will see MK and friends look for the ingredients to restore the red polka dot bandana’s healing power. “Thus, (my character and his friends) go on a search, they (all) travel (together).”
Vhong added that the latest installment is more adventure-filled and action-packed. Fantastical, folklore characters like kapre (a tall, black hairy creature), serena (mermaid), manananggal (a creature that victimizes pregnant women) are also part of MK’s new journey.
Although all this speaks of the right mix to get and hold viewers’ attention, Vhong was aware of the challenge in doing a part two: It usually suffers, especially if the first one was a success. “We made sure that part one and part two were on the same level (in terms of adventure and entertainment),” he said, “(or the latter could surpass) the first because (MK will have) more adventures.”
As for his own version of Mang Kepweng, Vhong recalled that he looked for copies of Chiquito’s movies on YouTube but they were “medyo madilim talaga, hindi po halos makita (they were blurred),” he said. Growing up, he watched the comedian’s movies and considered Chiquito one of his comedy idols. That’s why playing MK the albularyo is a career highlight for Vhong.
“Hindi naman masamang maniwala kung kailangan talaga natin ng hope lalo na sa pinagdadaanan natin ngayon (I don’t see any problem with believing in it, especially if one needs hope to hold on and given what everyone is going through now),” said Vhong of the alternative healing’s following. “Matagal na nandyan na yan at hindi (ito) mawawala sa mga probinsya (It has been around for a long time, like in the provinces), kapag hindi nila kaya yung budget (na pumunta sa doktor) o walang pera, ang takbuhan nila ay (ang) albularyo, kumbaga paniniwala po talaga yun (some turn to faith healers because of budget consideration in availing of medical services). Kung may faith ka, gagaling ka. ‘Yun po ang para sa akin. (If you have faith, you’ll get healed and that’s what I think.)”
Aside from playing the character not just once but twice, having an MMFF entry during these trying times makes Vhong feel more grateful. He said this time of the year is also usually for family and friends to come together to watch Filipino films inside the theater. But it can’t be done because of the global health crisis. Good news is Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim and other MMFF official entries can be watched via upstream.ph. It is a new experience of family bonding and movie watching, Vhong concluded. Everyone should embrace it.
(Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim is presented by Cineko Productions and Star Cinema. It will be streamed on http://upstream.ph beginning Dec. 25. Please use your GMovies account and tickets can be purchased now on the site for P250.)
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