Barrio boy Pedro Penduko becomes an urban warrior

The original Pedro Penduko was a comic book character created by the posthumously awarded National Artist for Literature Francisco V. Coching. 

Serialized in Liwayway, the Filipino magazine of choice in the mid-‘50s to ‘70s, Coching’s Penduko is an ordinary young man from the barrio who is bumbling and cowardly but also resourceful, quick-witted and pure-hearted.

Lamentably, no prints are known to exist of the first Pedro Penduko film made by the great Gerry de Leon, National Artist for Film, who directed from a screenplay by Coching himself. Efren Reyes Sr. was the original actor who played Penduko on the silver screen.

The second motion picture incarnation of Coching’s comic book character happened in the late ’70s, with the Philippines’ Bruce Lee counterpart Ramon Zamora as lead under Celso Ad Castillo’s direction.

More recent incarnations include remakes that starred Janno Gibbs, plus the successful ABS-CBN series that catapulted Matt Evans to teen stardom. 

Pedro Penduko will once again be reborn this December with the Metro Manila Film Festival entry Penduko, starring Matteo Guidicelli as the iconic character and Jason Paul Laxamana writing and directing the film.

Laxamana said he has uprooted Pedro Penduko from the barrio and made him an urban daily survivor. Guidicelli’s Penduko is now an everyday Juan in the city struggling to make ends meet because he does not want to follow the footsteps of his arbularyo father, Apo Tisot (John Arcilla), offering a millennial story of the main character journeying to find one’s self and the hero within.

“Majority of people now have seen so many superheroes from Marvel, DC, Disney and the like. So, in this Penduko, we have expanded his story. The common threads in all the Penduko movies and TV show are its folklore and mythical elements. That is what we maintained in this film, but we added a fuller story to strengthen the folklore and magical elements.”

Guidicelli, who said he was “overwhelmed and grateful” to be doing the role, trained hard to be physically fit, undergoing extensive arnis, eskrima and kali sessions with a Philippine martial arts master. He also worked closely with his acting coach Ruby Ruiz to get the character right, especially his feelings and sense of truth.

“When I was presented the screenplay by direk Jason Paul, I was blown away,” recalled Guidicelli. “Anything and everything about Penduko, how he envisioned him to be and the world we are presenting in the movie, was in the script. And it was written in the old style, almost lyrical Tagalog. Nakaka-intimidate! As an actor, pag ganun ka-kumpleto na ‘yung ibinigay sa iyo (if you were given something that complete), you really need to bring your A-game.”

Guidicelli is bullish about the
box-office prospects of his film. “It has been quite some time for an action-fantasy movie to be part of the annual MMFF. Aside from that, we have a gripping and relatable narrative. There are twists to the folklore and mythical creatures. Its sensibilities, passion and heart are truly Filipino.”

Penduko is the first MMFF venture of Epik Studios and Sari-Sari Network Inc., in collaboration with Viva Films. It opens in cinemas this 25 December as an official MMFF entry.