By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Memorizing a 68-page monologue might sound like an impossible mountain to climb. But for Filipino film star Jake Macapagal, that was all in a day’s work.
Macapagal, in town from June 7 through June 9 to promote his new film “Watch List (Maria),” cites his memorization of that monologue as only one of the colorful tasks he’s shouldered, acting on film, for television, and in live theater.
A 2007 live production of the musical “West Side Story” found him playing Bernardo, one of the Puerto Rican gang members.
“The most prominent challenge was to keep up with the young dancers,” the star recalled. “Learning a triple pirouette is no joke, too. Ha!”
He grew up in Manila, and realized something early on. “It was important for me to understand that I was part of a whole. And in order for me to grow up and contribute value, I needed to find my own adventure, my own voice.
Fortunately, my constant seeking led me to theatre, music, and the arts.”
A school play in the third grade set him to acting. He was only watching the play, not onstage, but he wanted to be a part of the show. His movie-loving mother gave him a grounding in film. He watched Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and Franco Zeffirelli’s “The Champ,” amazed at how they transported him to realms he’d never thought of. He watched Akira Kurosawa’s classics, and the suspense films of Alfred Hitchcock.
“I was hooked for life,” he explained. “There was something about the characters that I connected with, and the stories I wanted to experience.”
He spent time in Europe, notably Germany, learning the language and broadening his horizons. He drilled himself on English and German, in addition to the Tagalog and Hiligaynon he already knew from home.
His first prominent film role was in 2013’s “Metro Manila,” directed by Sean Ellis, which took an Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
He got a call to audition for the project that became “Watch List.” The gritty tail of crime, corruption, and the struggle to live with dignity and honesty, was shot mostly in Caloocan, in the Metropolitan Manila Area. The locals, Macapagal recalls, “welcomed us with hospitality, but also with a watchful eye.”
His character, a police inspector named Ventura, starts out believing he’s always on the right side. As the drama unfolds, however, the inspector will learn that the people he dismisses as “collateral damage” have their own worth and their own rights.
The actor allows that he’s never visited Seattle before, but he’s eager to visit.
“I am looking forward to having a culinary experience, listen to the city with an open heart, observing its pulse and energy. I heard about rain, but I come from the tropics, so that is welcomed. Always in search of good coffee, too!”
Future projects include a turn in the director’s chair, for a project that’s still in pre-production. He’s a certified yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance, so he’ll return to that post as well.
Macapagal hopes that the new movie will help celebrate the diversity of Filipino theater arts, and especially Filipino film.
“We have 150 million people in the archipelago, and for sure each filmmaker will find their audience somewhere there, whether it is the mainstream or indie [film],” he concluded.
“The challenge is always to find a story that is compelling enough to have a universal appeal. Basic truths. Love, sex, and rock and roll.”
“Watch List (Maria)” showtimes:
June 7, 8:45 p.m., at AMC Pacific Place
June 8, 3 p.m., at the SIFF Cinema Uptown
*Jake Macapagal is scheduled to attend both screenings.
For prices and other information, visit siff.net/festival/watch-list-(maria).
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.