The countless punches that Manny Pacquaio has had to endure in the ring to become boxing’s eight-division world champion through the years are nothing compared to the pain of his impoverished childhood in the slums of Saranggani province.
The Pacman, through his upcoming and authorized biopic Kid Kulafu under Star Cinema and Ten17 Productions, has expressed this ever so simply yet poignantly with the words, “Minsan masakit talaga ang buhay kaysa boxing.”
Spoken with the voice and heart of 16-year-old actor Buboy Villar who plays the young Emmanuel (Pacquiao’s first name, and was how he was called in his youth by family and friends), Kid Kulafu’s director and brainchild Paul Soriano says that this very line, once shared with him by his world famous friend, sparked the beginning of an intense three years of research and filming of the boxing legend’s untold story.
“I’ve had a relationship with Manny for several years having directed many of his TV commercials, and we became friends in the process,” related Soriano at the movie’s grand press conference at the Dolphy Theater this week. “One time, he said to me, ‘Paul, yung boxing nakikita mo ngayon sa TV na-knockout ako, nagte-training, lahat ‘yan hindi ‘yan sakit para sa akin. Yung sakit, yung walang bahay, walang pagkain, walang pamilya. ‘Yan ang masakit.’
“When he was saying this, there was so much emotion in his voice and there was this fire in his eyes that I said then and there, ‘Manny, why don’t we make a movie about your childhood, and what led you to boxing?” Suddenly, his face lit up, and we started the project.”
Endorsed by the champ himself, Pacquiao’s family fully cooperated with Soriano and his research team, who made Saranggani and General Santos City their home for some two years. They took the project very seriously, taking care to be thorough in documenting Pacquaio’s early days, in order to accomplish the boxer’s goal in telling his life story: To serve as an inspiration to the Filipino people—the nation—whom he unites with every fight he takes on in the international boxing arena.
In a pre-taped message, Pacquaio expressed: “Sana makapag-bigay itong istorya ko ng inspirasyon sa bayan… na sa tulong ng Diyos walang imposible sa buhay.”
‘Ako si Kid Kulafu’
The movie’s title is derived from the name Pacquaio used in his very first fights.
“There was a popular drink where Manny grew up that’s called ‘Vino Kulafu,’ you know like Shoktong [alocal alcoholic drink made from fermented coconut bulb]. When Manny was a kid, to make money, he would do the rounds of restaurants and bars in his neighborhood every morning, collecting these bottles of Vino Kulafo, which he would then deposit in exchange for a few centavos. That’s how he got the moniker Kid Kulafu, which his uncle Sardo Dapidran, who got him into boxing, decided to use for him in the ring,” Soriano related.
Besides Dapidran, who had the young Manny punching down banana trees for practice, the other significant influences who convinced the once scrawny kid from Kibawe, Bukidnon to pursue the sport that has turned him into one of the highest paid athletes in the world today were his father, Rosalio Pacquiao, and the late boxing patron Rod Nazario, who told him he had the makings of the next Flash Elorde, Luisito Espinosa and Pancho Villa.
Pacquiao’s mother Dionesia, who is now a celebrity in her own right, is seen in the early trailers to be against the idea. She wanted Emmanuel to be a priest.
Power of the past
Soriano, who believes the timeliness of Kid Kulafu’s showing will further help inspire Pacquaio to give the fight of his life on May 3 against Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, feels very honored to deliver the untold story of the Philippine pride to the country and the rest of the world.
“Whatever comes out of the fight with Mayweather will not define Manny,” he declared. “His whole life and how he unites a nation and grabs the attention of the rest of the world are what make him the legend that he is.”
Nevertheless, the director who is famously engaged to actress Toni Gonzaga said that in making such an important movie, the likes of boxing analysts Ronnie Nathanielz and Chino Trinidad have boosted his confidence in showing Kid Kulafu on April 15.
“They have given me the greatest compliment when they sent me messages to say that the movie made them believe Manny was resurrected from 15 years ago,” Soriano elaborated.
Humbly, he shared the credit with young actor Buboy Villar—a confessed Manny Pacquiao fan—who bested hundreds of other talents in auditioning for the part.
“Actually, hindi po pinaalam sa amin na role po ni Pacman ang inau-audition nila,” related Buboy. “Kaya laking saya ko po nung napili ako sinabi sa akin ni Direk ang totoo. Maliban sa pagiging fan ni Pacman, nanggaling din po ako sa hirap,” continued the reality show discovery. “At sa istorya po ng Kid Kulafu, alam ko na napakalaking inspirasyon ang maibibigay ni Sir Manny sa mga kabataan ngayon. Hindi po niya goal ang manalo nung pumasok siya sa boxing; ang ginusto lang po niya ay makatulong sa pamilya niya at bigyan ng dangal ang mga magulang niya.”
In the cast with Buboy are award-winning actors Alessandra de Rossi and Alex Medina who portray Pacquiao’s parents, Cesar Montano, Khalil Ramos and Igi Boy Flores.
Kid Kulafu is written by Froilan Medina and under creative consultant Amor Olaguer and fight director Erwin Tagle.
For more information and latest updates about Kid Kulafu log on to StarCinema.com.ph, Facebook.com/StarCinema and Twitter.com/StarCinema.