Exclusive: Paul Soriano On The Making of ‘Siargao,’ Plus His Quick Travel Guide Of The Island
“What a way to end the year, and what a way to start the year,” Metro Manila Film Festival 2017 Best Director Paul Soriano told Metro.Style during a chat after the success of his film Siargao.
In this exclusive interview, the director talks about how the movie was conceptualized, how he picked the actors for the film, his personal connection to this paradise, and the must-visits, must-dos, and must-eats in the beautiful island of Siargao.
When did you discover Siargao and what was your first impression of it?
It was introduced to me probably five or seven years ago by two of my close friends in high school. We met up in a restaurant and they told me, “Hey, we have an idea of putting up a resort in Siargao.” It’s like a bunch of high school friends partnering up together. And of course, I said okay. At that time, I think it’s 2011, I heard about the surfing and stuff, so why not? It’s like investing na rin for the future. We teamed up and we invested, bought some property there. Ever since then, I’ve been going back and forth. It’s also become my escape place where I can recharge—physically, emotionally, creatively.
What do you like most about being in Siargao?
It’s like traveling back in time when things are much simpler. There are not so much gadgets, technology, and social media. The signal isn’t good there. WiFi is very challenging. So you’re really forced to be one with yourself, with nature, with your family and friends. I love the rawness. Everything is just so simple and laid-back, just good old Filipino living at its best. You can wear the same shirts or shorts and nobody cares. Ang sarap.
When was the movie conceptualized?
It was probably early 2016 that the idea of the film came about. A couple of friends from the island knew me as a filmmaker. So they asked, “Paul, why don’t you make a story here in Siargao?” I’ve always thought of it, it’s always at the back of my mind because it’s such a beautiful place in all angles. So I teamed up with my writer and my creative team and put up a story that I felt best describes Siargao. What you see in the film is kind of my interpretation of what the island is to me—how I immersed in it. Basically, it’s an escape film—escaping conflict, escaping problems, facing your own demons, finding yourself.
What is your own definition of escape?
It’s just going to a place where you could listen to yourself. For me, that’s a quiet place, kasi my life is pretty noisy. Sometimes when you’re too drowned in the noise—what I mean by noise is traffic, work, projects, the demands of the professional life—sometimes, getting away allows you to listen to your soul, to those whispers that have been trying to talk to you all these time.
What were your wife Toni Gonzaga’s initial thoughts about the project?
Toni has always been very supportive in everything I do. She knows of my dreams, visions, and imaginations. I brought her and my son Seve to Siargao, I think one or two months before filming, and they fell in love with the place. So making a movie about it at that time is perfect.
How did you choose the cast members for the film?
In all my films, I have to handpick my cast. That’s half the job for a director. I’ve worked with Jasmine (Curtis) before in Transit, and she has great talent. She brings something to the table that no one really does. She takes her craft very seriously. For Erich (Gonzales), I’ve known her and her intense dramatic acting and I felt na bagay siya for Laura. I also think she is in the part of her life where she’s out to discover herself, and we were able to take out her motivations and bring them out to the film. And with Jericho (Rosales), I mean, who does not want to work with Jericho Rosales? I couldn’t have imagined anybody else playing the role of Diego except for him so I had to slowly pitch in the project. The only challenge with him was everything about the film is what he likes to do when he escapes from his professional life—he likes to bike, he likes to surf, he likes the beach. And we brought those elements of his escape to a professional environment. That’s a very, very personal thing. But I’m thankful and blessed that he accepted the film.
Did you expect to win?
To be honest, I was getting a lot of comments for the cinematography, so those were the kind of awards na sige, game. But to get seven awards is just beyond expectation. We were just surfing and swimming and now, it’s becoming critically-acclaimed. But for me, our biggest award was getting into the Metro Manila Film Festival, that in itself is an award. And everyday, it just got better—we got a bigger audience and more cinemas.
What’s next for you?
Definitely more films. I’m still reading scripts now. 2018 has just begun. In terms of genre, I still have to decide, but there are some stories that I might already commit to. Before I commit to a film, I have to be 100% sure, emotionally and mentally, but it’s a job I’m blessed to have.
What are your top recommendations when in Siargao?
Of course, I’m biased here but Harana Surf Resort! It is just beside Cloud9. We have a nice beachfront there with Tuason point break and a surf break there. We’re known for our halo-halo. For other places, well, definitely, it’s Dako Island because it’s got the white sand beach, nice waves, and fresh seafood. You can just stay there and catch the beautiful sunset. I also like Sugba Lagoon, the place of that scene where Jericho jumped off the platform. Then you have the Boardwalk on Cloud9.
The thing about Siargao is, yes, it’s known for world-class surfing. But there’s just 101 other things you can do there. There are the best resorts where you can get boutique service. I say, the best Italian food is in Siargao. For grill, there’s Kalinaw and Mama’s Grill.
For surf beginners naman, you have the Jacking Horse that has smaller waves. You have Naked Island, Guyam Island, the coral reef, the Magpupungko. You can ride a motorbike around and discover getting lost. Get a taste of pan de coco especially in the morning, ang sarap! You can also jog around and take in the fresh air. And at night, you’ll see a thousand stars. The skies are always clear because it’s so breezy, you can just leave your camera and capture it in time-lapse. And we have good parties. So I always say Siargao is what you always wanted to be. It’s got it all. We’re serving the island for what it is. That’s a big part of the film.
Photography by Daniel Soriano