Dito at Doon: A lockdown romance, a pandemic and a hankering for home

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by Niza Mariñas

              Don’t be fooled by the teaser. Although it does instantly catch one’s attention—two good-looking and charming leads obviously attracted to each other bickering about the lockdown—that snippet of director JP Habac’s latest movie “Dito at Doon” is just scratching the surface of what this pandemic film is all about.

              Most everyone can relate to what the movie adeptly tackles—some “bored” people whiling away the time by adopting any “trend” they can get their hands on, from making dalgona coffee, turning into a plantita, to joining an e-numan session with friends, among others. However, there are also those who aren’t as privileged, those who have no choice but to go out every day to earn a living despite the risk of contracting the virus.

              For “Dito at Doon” stars JC Santos and Victor Anastacio, although the film teases audiences with a romantic premise, its bigger point is mirroring the day-to-day struggles everyone had to face, especially at the height of the pandemic last year. Coming to the set to do the film, in a lock-in setting and with all safety protocols in place, was quite an experience for both of them.

              In a Zoom interview with host/writer Rob Gonzales for Click Cebu, the two actors talked about the experience of filming in the new normal.

              “Parang meta sya ‘eh. Meta ‘yung movie dahil nasa pandemic kami, nasa bubble pero ‘yung sinu-shoot naming movie is also about a pandemic and in a way, about a bubble so parang ‘yung adjustment as a character hindi ganun ka layo ‘eh kasi you just live your experience so it’s very close to home,” said Victor, who plays Mark, close friend of both Caloy (JC) and Len, portrayed by Janine Gutierrez.

              JC, for his part, said the imposed daily working time of 12 hours helped, as opposed to the unpredictable and harried work hours, pre-pandemic.

JC Santos

              “We’re creating art here and we know art takes time. It was a great experience for us, the storytellers, the cinematographer, director and the actors kasi pumasok kami sa tamang process of creating art. Tama ‘yung pinagdaanan namin so the whole time masaya kami,” said JC, who plays the delivery rider Caloy in the film. 

              Both actors didn’t have second thoughts accepting the project when it was offered to them.

              Victor, for one, already worked with Janine in another film and had always find the award-winning actress a joy to work with. 

Victor Anastacio

              “With JC and Janine, di mo naman naramdaman na: ‘O, stars kami. Dito kayo, dito kami.’ Kwentuhan lang. Unintended consequence o blessing ang lock-in taping kasi talagang magba-bond kayo. Kasi after work, in between tapings, minsan kahit walang scenes si JC, makikita mo, tumatambay.”

              JC said he received the first few drafts of the script sometime in July last year (shooting was in December), and all he knew that time was that it would be directed by JP Habac and produced by TBA Studios.

              “Sabi ko, okey na ‘to. Game na ‘to. Kelan ba ‘to isho-shoot?” the actor said.

              JC has nothing but praise for his fellow lead actor Janine, whom he described as “great, super easy.”

JC Santos, Janine Gutierrez, director JP Habac

              “Sobrang ang daling kausap. Ang lambing nyang magsalita. Ang bilis nyang magsalita. Ang dami nyang kwento, actually. Ang galing nyang makinig. Super approachable. Pag humble ‘yung kasama mo, ang sarap laging nandyan sya. Hindi sya intimidating kahit na big star na ‘yan. With Janine, pwede kang mag-joke sa harapan nya tapos di ka mahihiya,” he added. 

              Victor, upon reading the script, said he found it familiar and close to home.

              “May mga trigger points. Roller coaster ‘eh. Mang mang-aaway online, may concerned sa family. A lot of people can relate to the story

 “Ihatod Tika”

              Cebuanos, of course, would be delighted to know that JC’s character is from Cebu and bears a family name (Cabahug), that is also distinctly Cebuano. He is also often seen doing video calls with his mother and siblings from Cebu.

              In what JC considers as his favorite scene in the movie, he gets to sing his own version of Jerika Teodorico’s “Ihatod Tika” when he finally opens up to Janine’s character and tells her of his ultimate dream of becoming a band vocalist.

              The actor shared that it took him the whole ride from his hometown in Pampanga to the film set in Tagaytay–a good five to six hours–to memorize the song.

              “Pero lumalim ‘yung song nu’ng pina-translate ko na sya. Na channel ko sya nang personal nung nalaman ko na ang translation. Mas naintindan ko na kung paano sya kakantahin,” he added. 

              JC said that because Caloy always talks about missing home, it was but natural (and also a foreshadowing) that he would sing a song from home.

              On a personal level, JC feels happy to be able to add another good movie to his filmography and is pleased that people are still talking about it three weeks after it started streaming on March 31.

              “Ilang beses ko na syang napanood tapos naririnig ko pa ang comments and reviews ng mga tao. Ang daming interpretations sa pelikula namin which is really, really good kasi open sya for discussion,” he added.

Victor Anastacio, Yesh Burce, Janine Gutierrez, JC Santos and director JP Habac

              Echoing what Janine said in another interview, Victor considers their movie “the perfect closure to 2020.”   

              “Kaya nakakatakot ‘yung virus kasi di mo sya makita ‘eh. Parang ganun ‘yung 2020 eh. Ang daming nangyari pero kung makita mo sya in a story na makaka-relate lahat, I think makakatulong sya sa pag-process ng napaka masalimuot na 2020.”

              Directed by JP Habac, written by Alex Gonzales and Kristin Barrameda, and produced by TBA Studios in association with WASD Films, “Dito at Doon “ stars Janine Gutierrez, JC Santos, Victor Anastacio, Yesh Burce with special participation of Lotlot de Leon. 

              It is available for streaming through the following sites: KTX, Ticket2Me, Upstream, iWantTFC, and Cinema ‘76 @Home. International audiences can stream the film via TBA Play starting May 1.

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