Anyone who knows his or her modern day Filipino film history will remember Carlo Aquino as Vilma Santos’ son in the multi-awarded movie adaptation of “Bata, Bata… Paano Ka Ginawa” (1998) by noted novelist Lualhati Bautista.
And while Carlo had steadily pursued his career since that pivotal dramatic project—where his young teenage character is made to choose between his mother and absentee father (Ariel Rivera)—it is surprising for a certain generation to believe he is now 32 years old and a romantic leading man at that. The T-Zone may even remember a three-way boy group that had Carlo as lead singer, along with John Prats and Stefano Mori in the ‘90s!
Millennials, though, already know Carlo as part of the four-way psycho-thriller love story, “The Better Half,” with Shaina Magdayao, JC de Vera and Denise Laurel, which captivated afternoon soap addicts on ABS-CBN in 2017. For them, it is but natural to see his name beside Bela Padilla’s as co-headliner of Spring Films and Viva Films’ new glossy title, “Meet Me in St. Gallen.”
Ask Carlo what he thinks of his lover boy status on screen and he will say, “Never kong naisip na magiging romantic lead ako kasi karamihan ng mga ginagawa ko mga indies, at yung iba supporting roles ako palagi! Ito, romantic-drama na, ako pa ang bida!”
Poking fun at himself, Carlo admitted at St. Gallen’s grand press conference he isn’t heartthrob material. Looking stylish in a burgundy blazer over a crisp white button-down shirt, he laughingly added, “Hindi kasi ako ganito at sanay na nag-aayos. White t-shirt, maong and rubber shoes lang talaga ako, so kabilang ito sa adjustment. Kaya nga kinakabahan ako eh!”
Beyond the image, however, Carlo said he is grateful that producers Piolo Pascual and Joyce Bernal of Spring Films, as well as partner company Viva, have given him the opportunity to tackle a completely different role and trust him enough to take the lead. After all, since sweeping the Best Child Actor Award across Philippine Cinema’s award giving bodies for “Bata, Bata,” critics have long believed Carlo’s talent to be hugely underrated.
“I feel pressured, of course, pero although na-te-tensiyon ako, I’m happy sa akin napunta ang role ni Jesse [for St. Gallen]kasi challenging siya. Mahilig ako rito sa music, kumanta, pero ang gusto ng dad ko (Nonie Buencamino) mag-doktor ako. Then I meet Celeste (Bella) na kare-resign lang sa trabaho and we talk seriously about our lives. May koneksiyon agad between us.”
Filling in details about the plot, St. Gallen writer and director Irene Villamor (“Camp Sawi”) said, “This movie is about the special connection shared by two people who meet each other the first time when they’re both in a bad place. They feel something that night but go their separate ways and only meet again years apart, two other times. Each time, they ask each other the same question, ‘What do we do now?’, uncertain if their experiences in between have changed them or that connection they felt on Day 1.”
More importantly, the film highlights the importance of actual human interaction in the age of “Facebook friends.”
“Sa panahon ngayon, napaka-importante ng human connection kasi mas mararamdaman mo ang sincerity ng isang tao kapag kaharap mo, kausap mo. Lalo na ngayon na usong-uso ang social media. Iyon ang ipinararating ng pelikula namin,” rejoined Carlo.
Finally, Philippine cinema’s newest leading man pointed to the snow-covered setting of Switzerland’s St. Gallen as another major highlight of the movie, not only for intensifying emotions in the romantic-drama but for his unforgettable experience shooting there.
“Sobrang na-enjoy ko yung snow!” he laughed at himself again. “Naisip ko nga, para akong nagbalik sa pagkabata. Noong kinunan din namin siya last year, I also enjoyed their Christmas village—very scenic and cinematic siya, maganda sa mata. Pag na-experience mo siya, iba yung feeling at mai-inspire ka talaga.”
As such, hopes are high that Carlo has turned in an inspired performance in Meet Me in St. Gallen, what with the many firsts the movie has given him at this point in his career. Judgement day is today with the movie opening in cinemas across the country.