I’m Drunk, I Love You and Gaya Sa Pelikula director JP Habac dishes on relevance and readiness
You might know JP Habac as the director of I’m Drunk, I Love You and Sakaling Maging Tayo—that is, after all, how I knew him when we were first introduced (though he hadn’t released the latter film at the time). Our editor-in-chief introduced us at the premiere of another film, and the fan girl in me lit up at the possibility of a feature.
The first time I watched I’m Drunk, I Love You, it quickly rose to the top of my favorite Filipino films. JP has a way of making his audience feel like we’re part of the movie and Dio (Paulo Avelino) and Carson (Maja Salvador) both felt—strangely—cut from my cloth. When Sakaling Maging Tayo released in theaters, I convinced a friend to join me and equally felt attached to Laya (Elisse Joson) and Pol (McCoy De Leon).
And now I have Gaya Sa Pelikula, created and written by Juan Miguel Severo, directed (of course) by JP Habac and starring Ian Pangilinan and Paolo Pangilinan, to look forward to.
While JP quickly became a household name in 2017, I learned off-the-bat that his journey was not as painless as it might have seemed. Enrolled first at the University of the Philippines as a pre-med student who took up Biology and then Geography, the would-be director took a General Education class that quite literally changed his life. After his professor had his students view Lino Brocka’s Orapronobis starring Philip Salvador and Dina Bonnevie, JP fell in love in a way that was undeniable. And after a series of odd jobs as a personal assistant, camera caretaker and a member of the art department of a production design team—where he juggled making short films, attending workshops and participating in competitions—he finally landed a job as Assistant Director to veteran Jerrold Tarog.
You can’t deny it: When passion strikes, there is no letting it slide you by. You act on it; you fuel it—even if it means spending your savings on a short film that will only make it to your reel.
What struck me the most about JP is how completely down-to-earth and simple he is. His stories are inspired by everyday people and relatable experiences, and he lives by “Hangga’t masakit pa, isulat mo lang.” And this is exactly why his body of work hits us all in the heart; he poured out experience after experience and heartbreak and after heartbreak and presented it to us in a theme we could all relate to: unrequited love.
Is this what we have to look forward to with Gaya Sa Pelikula? According to JP, we’ll finally get a chronological telling of the Karl and Vlad’s story that first came about via teleplays on Wattpad. “We want to tell their story the right way,” he explains. Having been friends with Juan Miguel Severo for over a decade (as the spoken word artist appeared in JP’s first student production), his swift answer to the invitation to direct the series was, “Game na game.”
“I have long been interested in telling stories from a community which I myself belong to,” he says when asked if he thinks the country is ready to see a same-sex couple in a series. “What got me interested in this romantic comedy series is its intention to [show that] LGBTQ+ love stories are not taboo. They are normal. We are normal. The story of Gaya Sa Pelikula normalizes queer love by presenting like it is the most normal thing possible. Because it is.” And not that we needed even more reason to get behind the show, but JP tells us that the production team is composed mostly of artists and creators from the LGBTQIA+ community. Representation is not only necessary, after all; it’s fulfilling, too.
“I think it’s the right time to finally take back our own stories,” he continues. “It’s time that queer stories be fairly represented in the mainstream media.”
For now, we don’t know much else about Gaya Sa Pelikula, except the line that’s been on everyone’s minds: “It wasn’t a single night that started us.” Well, JP was kind enough to give us another teaser:
“I spent time with you because I was sorry,
but I’m not sorry I spent time with you.”
He asks me, “Kilig?” after delivering the line. So, JP, I’ll be as swift in my answer as you were when you first agreed to take this directorial challenge on: Yes.
Art Alexandra Lara and Matthew Ian Fetalver