COVER: Loved team
MANILA, Philippines - The worst possible place for an interview is a bar. The lighting situation in bars ranges from dim to very dark, which means you can’t really see your subject’s facial expressions and body language very clearly—and those are important things to note when you’re extracting stories. And don’t get me started on the noise. Having to scream to be able to hear each other over the din the party animals make means you’ll have a hellish time transcribing. And, if you’re extra unlucky, you’ll end up committing a no-no for any journalist worth her salt: misquoting your interviewee. But two days shy of Valentine’s Day, actors Paulo Avelino and Maja Salvador decide to, uh, raise the bar, by insisting that their first ever Supreme interview together be conducted at — sigh — a bar. But even though a bar is not an ideal location, it is fitting — after all, their new movie is called I’m Drunk, I Love You.
I’m Drunk I Love You is a passion project of director JP Habac. In fact, it’s his first full-length film. In a separate interview, JP reveals Paulo and Maja were not who he had in mind as he was writing the story of Carson and Dio, best friends who go on a road trip four days before their college graduation; best friends on the cusp of adulthood; best friends who have no idea they’re about to confront their feelings for each other. It is a story that is at once sad but hopeful and heartbreaking but hilarious. JP had modest dreams for it. He never expected #IDILY to have a mainstream release, let alone get two of ABS CBN’s prized stars to headline the film. But fate intervened. TBA, the production company behind the game-changing Heneral Luna, saw commercial potential in the material and suggested Paulo Avelino for the oblivious Dio role. It was an easy yes for JP. He has worked with Paulo twice — he was the assistant director for both Sana Dati and Heneral Luna—and the actor ticks all the boxes. “Alam ko na yung range ng acting niya, tapos alam kong kumakanta siya, at alam kong gwapo siya, so pwede si Paulo,” he says.
The hopelessly-in-love Carson role was much harder to fill. A lot of names came up, but JP had a very specific kind of girl in mind. “Ang hinahanap kong Carson, unang tingin pa lang alam kong manginginom,” he says, laughing. “Yung magandang jologs. Yung mga sina-suggest nila hindi.” Paulo, who, by then, could not wait to start shooting (he believes in the project so much he co-produced it), started getting involved in the casting process. He recommended his Bridges of Love leading lady Maja Salvador. “Hindi pa ako sure kay Maja nung una,” JP admits, “Pero nung nag-reading na kami, sabi ko, ‘Ay, ang galing ni ate girl. Pasok naman. ’Di naman ako nagsisi.” (Twitter seems to agree. On the night of February 15, “Carson” trended effortlessly, with people effusively praising Maja’s portrayal. Even film critic Philbert Dy who does not mince words was charmed: “Maja Salvador is wonderful in I’m Drunk I Love You.”)
On set, JP observed how the diametrically opposite personalities of his two stars complemented, instead of clashed. “Sabi ko nga malapit na akong maging PauMaj fan. Yung friendship talaga nung dalawa,” he says. “Ang ganda kasi nung mix eh. Kasi meron kang Maja Salvador na maingay at makulit on set. At meron kang Paulo Avelino na okay lang kahit nasa gilid lang. Nadadala si Paulo ni Maja.” (He may be the endorser of one of the most potent ready-to-drink bottled coffee brands on the market, but Paulo is a walking chill pill.)
JP was one of the inebriated people milling around the Brooklyn-inspired resto-bar in Ortigas in which we met up with Paulo and Maja. The premiere night had just wrapped and the after-party was in full swing. Even in the semi darkness, Paulo and Maja stood out: He looked dapper in his moto jacket; she was a knockout in her off-shoulder, floor-length Gucci dress. Maja being Maja, she quipped, “Pasensya na kayo sa duster ko ah.” They thanked their co-workers and the friends who made time for them on this Sunday night. (In all his years in showbiz, this is the first time Paulo ever invited his close friends to attend a premiere night, apparently — a testament to how proud he is of this project.)
Now, this is not Paulo and Maja’s first project together. The two go way back. They first crossed paths by way of a cologne commercial when they were just starting out; starred in a film called Status: It’s Complicated, albeit with different partners; then headlined a successful soap called Bridges of Love in 2015. As with I’m Drunk I Love You, they weren’t the original choices for those roles, but fortune is kind to these two. The show’s writer G3 San Diego says, “Though they weren’t the first choice, they ended up the best choice for the roles. Maja won best actress and the series was nominated for an IEmmy. And PauMaj was born.” Through an email interview, a representative from their fan club, PauMaj Official, reveals how they view their favorite showbiz pair: “Kung hindi maging sila, wala naman problema, pwede naman sila maging CharDawn [The purely professional tandem of Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta]. Kahit di sila real [couple], nakakakilig pa rin sila sa reel.” But like a true fangirl, she adds, “Pero sana talaga maging sila.”
Around 11:45 p.m., Paulo signaled to us that they were finally ready to talk. The guests were loose by then, and some TBA staffers were dancing to New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. At a corner table, in between bites of pizza and swigs of beer, Paulo and Maja got candid about love teams, not developing feelings and how twerking like Miley is linked to expensive whiskey.
Supreme: What do you think of love teams?
Paulo Avelino: I’m not really a fan of love teams pero minsan, meron talaga [chemistry] eh. Ako naman I was never really stuck with a love team. None. At all. Seryoso. Only because I couldn’t take something so fake — ‘yung [kahit] off cam, you need to be sweet to your ka-partner, you need to be holding hands, you need to give flowers. It’s so fake and I can’t handle that. I’m all about being authentic. At the end of the day, I’m an actor. I work because I’m hired to portray a role or a character, not because I have to be sweet to a person to make it work.
Maja Salvador: Nung hindi pa ko artista, grabe ako sumuporta sa love teams: Jericho Rosales-Kristine Hermosa, Bobby Andrews-Angelu de Leon, John Pratts-Heart Evangelista. Tapos nung pumasok na ako sa industriya, bagets, kailangan ng love team. Ang nangyayari, binibigyan ako ng ka-love team pero hindi nagtatagal, which is okay din naman sa akin. Kasi mas makakakilos ka on your own? Dahil unang-una mahirap kapag nagpapanggap ka lang. Feeling mo ang dami mong niloloko na tao. Ayoko rin ng ganun kaya ok rin na wala talaga akong love team. So in every project, iba-iba yung nagiging ka-partner ko.
P: Ginaya mo lang ako eh.
You made your names without love team partners. How were you able to do that?
M: Depende sa mga projects na ginagawa mo, na tinatanggap mo. Well, nagkataon lang talaga siguro na wala akong naka-love team na sobrang nag-click. Siguro hindi lang talaga para sa akin ang love team.
P: Siguro sinuwerte rin talaga ko and at the same time, I made it quite clear na I’m here as an actor. I stick to what I want, what I want to be, what I want to show, and who I am.
What’s the sweetest thing you’ve done for each other?
P: Si Maja, galante mag-regalo. She gave me Hibiki.
M: Favorite niya. Di ba whiskey drinker siya? May guesting kami sa Gandang Gabi Vice. Sabi ko, “Uy, Pau ah, energy dito sa episode natin.” Pili lang naman yung mga topic na gusto niyang pag-usapan or pili lang talaga kung anong sasabayan niyang kwentuhan, jokes. Uso yung “Twerk it like Miley” noon. Tsaka “Nae Nae.” So nagsayaw siya! Tapos lahat sinasabi, “Grabe, first time ni Paulo sumayaw. Nag-twerk pa siya.” Hinahanap ni Pau yung Hibiki 30. Yun ang pinaka mahirap hanapin. So sabi ko sige bigyan kitang Hibiki. Yung step dad ko, yung daddy ng brother ko, nasa Japan. Nahanap niya yung apat.
How come you two never became romantically involved?
M: Ah, busy. Busy sa trabaho.
P: Kapag may naka-partner ka at nag-work, laging ine-expect na magkatuluyan. Pero kami kasi ni Maj, malaki yung respeto sa isa’t isa eh. We have our priorities in life and goals. Nagyon pa lang iniisip ko, paano ako magkaka love life ng 2017 eh I’ll be working straight till the end of the year.
M: Yes. Pag may soap ka mahirap eh, lalo na laging out-of-town.
You’re busy? That’s it?
P: That’s one.
M: Pag may time, ‘Oh, tara labas,’ with barkada. Hindi mo kasi alam hanggang kailan kayo pwede ulit lumabas, so hindi mo alam kung ju-jump ka na, “Uy! Itotodo ko na ba kung may mafi-feel ako?” Maiisip mo na parang pwede pero mas importante yung i-save yung friendship. Ok naman kami ni Pau eh. Gwapo naman siya eh. (laughs) Marami namang bagay kaming napagkakasunduan. Pero yun nga lang magkaiba pa yung priorities namin.
P: You know, if you ask me, I’ll say it straight: I’m physically attracted to Maja. She has a very nice personality. Pero maraming reasons eh: work, timing… And ang pangit kung magiging kayo dahil lang may pelikula kayong ginagawa. Kasi minsan nakaka-confuse rin for us actors kapag umaarte kasi dinadamdam mo eh. Kaya masarap maghanap ng partner na hindi mo ka-trabaho or hindi mo nakatrabaho. But a few years down the road, who knows?
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Post-script: Our audio recording of the PauMaj interview is surprisingly clear despite the many interruptions for photo ops and the many whoops of drunken joy and Drake’s wistful voice bemoaning how you used to call him on his cellphone. The recording is crystal, much like their tandem: Purely platonic off-screen, yes, but absolutely electric onscreen. They don’t need to be dating in real life to make us recognize ourselves in lovestruck Carson when she ditches her plans the moment Dio calls because of an “emergency.” They don’t need to be dating in real life to make us hate Miss-I-was-featured-on-Young-Star Pathy, Dio’s resurfacing ex. They don’t need to be dating in real life to cut us open without leaving us totally wrecked.
Clear: Paulo and Maja are a loved team, and in “I’m Drunk, I Love You,”, they bring Carson and Dio to life, two characters who, by now, have left an indelible mark on many.
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Photo by Patrick Diokno
Produced by David Milan
Makeup by Owen Sarmiento
Grooming by Don de Jesus
Hair by Florence Torrontegui