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Indie film producer raises funds for poor students

/ 11:05 PM May 11, 2015

ANGELES CITY—Five indie films raised almost P300,000 from ticket sales for an educational scholarship program for poor students.

Ferdinand Lapuz organized the Producer’s Cut Film Festival that featured Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s “Manoro,” Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Ekstra,” Percival

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Intalan’s “Dementia,” and Jun Robles Lana’s “Bwakaw” and “Barber’s Tales” as a fundraiser, his way of paying it forward to the city’s Holy Angel University (HAU), his alma mater.

The five movies were coproduced by lawyer Joji Alonso, HAU’s Center for Kapampangan Studies, Lana and APT Entertainment.

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As a distributor and producer of films, Lapuz helped put the Philippines back in the limelight in Cannes and several international festivals, with the films shown there earning awards for their directors and actors.

“You’re just in Grade 8 and you’re already helping your fellow youth,” Maria Theresa Fajardo, head of HAU’s scholarship and grants program, told the students who came to the screening of “Ekstra,” where

actor and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos plays the lead role.

Moviegoers paid P50 per ticket.

LAPUZ stands beside a poster of the recent film festival that raised P300,000 for scholarships.

LAPUZ stands beside a poster of the recent film festival that raised P300,000 for scholarships.

A recent screening had a very excitable audience. They clapped when the soundtrack began, shrieked when the opening credits listed the names of actors and grew silent when the movie began.

For the P50 they paid, the audience was not just entertained by the films they watched but received words of inspiration, too.

“Poverty is not a hindrance,” said Lapuz who coproduced the five films.

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He said he financed the last two years of his Business Management course at HAU by working at a Dunkin’ Donuts in what was then Mabalacat town, now city, in Pampanga.

Discouraging teen pregnancies, Lapuz gave this advice, actually a line taken from “Ekstra”: “Ang babaeng hindi marunong maghintay ay nagiging nanay (A girl who cannot wait becomes a mother).”

Lapuz said his own life was one for the movies.

He told the audience he developed a love for films when he was in first year high school. Back then, there were only seven movie houses in Angeles City and novelas were regular materials in comic books.

He started by being a “mangarter,” one who viewed posters (made of coco cloth). He then hopped from one movie house to another, watching films about three times, starting with the first movie he got the chance to see, “Karinyosa,” which coincidentally starred Santos.

Bitten by the show biz bug, he took a job at Viva Films as a production assistant while he struggled to get master’s degree units at the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines.

Through an aunt, he left for Toronto, Canada, in 1990 to help his father support a brood of five. In between working as a purchasing agent for an import company, Lapuz watched Philippine movies on video. Septembers were reserved for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

A call from a friend, the late Ariel Punzalan, tipped him off to the showing of “Sibak”—directed by Mel Chionglo, written by Ricky Lee and produced by Richard “Ado” Tang—at the TIFF.

The movie renewed his interest in Philippine show biz. Since then, he has been assisting Philippine delegations to the TIFF. Too smitten by the Philippine entertainment industry, he returned to the country in December 1995 in hopes of renewing his career in the movies.

But in 2002 he had to return to Canada. Ed Instrella, manager of Cherry Pie Picache, urged him to watch Maryo de los Reyes’ “Magnifico.”

Lapuz pitched the movie in the Berlin festival in September 2004, where it won the Crystal Bear Award and Grand Prix Jury Award.

Lapuz placed “Babae sa Breakwater,” also by De los Reyes, in Cannes, making it the first Philippine film shown there since 1984 when Lino Brocka’s “Kapit sa Patalim” was screened.

Mendoza would win the best director award in Cannes in 2009 for “Kinatay.”

With help from international producers Didier Costet and Christian Jeune, Lapuz’s winning streak in international festivals continued and he was happy at how it had created ripples in the local movie industry.

From 2010, Lapuz began working with younger filmmakers like Francis Pasion, Joseph Israel Laban, Eduardo Roy Jr., Jovenor Tan, Jason Paul Laxamana, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, Louie Ignacio, Joselito Altarejos and Zig Madamba Dulay.

“I wasn’t academically trained as a producer. I think I manage to be good at it by being able to relate to everybody in the production. A producer’s work is not materially rewarding but since I wanted to help, we thought of showing the films I produced to raise money to support poor students who value education as a way out of poverty,” Lapuz said.

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