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Jodi Sta. Maria And Coco Martin Show Their Take On Rom-Com In "Labyu With An Accent"

The two A-listers join forces for a Star Cinema offering that serves as an official entry to the 2022 MMFF

Jodi Sta. Maria explores healing from a broken heart, starting anew and falling in love again in a new Star Cinema film with Coco Martin titled Labyu With an Accent, an official entry to the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

An original story written and co-directed by Coco Martin with Malu Sevilla, Labyu With an Accent tells the story of Tricia, played by Jodi, a Filipino-American woman who is forced to come back to her roots in Manila after a devastating heartbreak in the US. Tricia learns she can find love in the most unexpected way as she meets Gabo, played by Coco, an owner of a boy's club who proposes to give her “the ultimate jowa experience“ to help her mend her broken heart.

“I play the role of Tricia, Am-girl siya (American girl) who left the Philippines when she was around 14 or 15 years old. Well-off ang family niya sa States, pero something happened to her and she needed to come back home to the Philippines to heal her broken heart. Doon niya na-meet 'yung character ni Gabo. Panoorin niyo na lang kung ano mangyayari noong nagkatagpo silang dalawa,” Jodi shared in jest during the press conference of the movie.

Na-realize ko while doing this project, nakaka-miss na gumawa ng something na light na rom-com, kasi for the past many years I've been doing drama. So nakakatuwa na gumawa ng character na kalma at chill lang,” she added. Jodi recently wrapped up a heavy drama project, The Broken Marriage Vow (the Philippine adaptation of Doctor Foster), wherein she portrayed the role of a woman whose husband had an extramarital affair.

Coco—whose top-rating, longest-running action series on Philippine TV, FPJ's Ang Probinsyanorecently concluded as well—specifically chose Jodi to play the female lead in Labyu With an Accent wherein he's not only the lead actor but also one of the directors.

Aside from his vision to entertain the Filipino viewers this Christmas season, Coco decided to develop the film project to help the movie industry get back on its feet. “Naisip ko kasi ang project na ito kasi di ba three years tayo hindi nakalabas sa ating mga bahay dahil sa pandemic. Hindi tayo nakapanood ng sine ng ilang taon which is tradition nating mga Filipinos tuwing Pasko, na reunion natin kasama ating mga pamilya. Naisip ko ito ang proyekto na p'wede mag-reunion ulit ang mga pamilya sa sinehan ngayong Pasko sa Metro Manila Film Festival, at para makatulong na rin sa industriya ng pelikula na makabalik,” Coco said.

Naisip ko sa tagal ng mga Pilipino sa lungkot, dapat ang proyekto namin ay 'yung makakapagpaligaya naman sa ating mga manonood, ma-inspire natin sila muling tumawa at muling umibig. Konsepto ng pelikula namin kumpletos rekadosmay comedy, drama, family, and romance,” Coco added.

Jodi commended Coco's directorial style, wherein they can improv as actors.“'Yung style kasi kunwari we were given a scene, bahala kami magsaluhan. Hinahayaan niya kami saan kami dadalhin ng eksena na 'yun while staying true to our characters, so sumisipa talaga 'yung magic and kilig,” the actress said.

Meanwhile, the actor-director said, “Importante sa'kin na organic ang eksena, kasi kapag masyado rehearsed, 'di na siya organic. Hinahayaan ko siya i-explore ang character niya, naglalabas kami ng baon. Organic ang nangyayari, fluid ang mga eksena, lumalabas ang chemistry and kilig.” 

Rochelle Pangilinan, who plays Tricia's childhood friend Daisy, attested to Coco's directing talent on the set: “Grabe 'yung pulso niya, lahat nakikita niya sa set. Umaarte siya pero nakikita niya 'yung ilaw, tapos alam niya 'yung linya niya, alam niya 'yung buong story. Pagkatapos niya mag-acting, uupo naman siya sa tapat ng monitor, mag-di-direct.” Rochelle was amazed by Coco's growth as an artist, as she recalled co-starring with the actor in GMA's Daisy Siete in the early 2000s. She's beyond grateful to have been allowed by GMA to be a part of a Star Cinema project.

Other actors who are part of Labyu With an Accent include Nash Aguas who plays Dino, the hardworking business-minded younger brother of Coco's Gabo; Nikki Valdez as Ate Pearl, the cousin of Gabo who also helps manage his business; and Nova Villa as Tricia's groovy grandmother.

Nakakatuwa kasi 'yung mga artista dito ay fit sa kanilang mga characters,” director Coco concluded.

Labyu with an Accent will be released in cinemas nationwide on December 25.