Vhong Navarro has undoubtedly gone a long way since his Streetboys days. Aside from dancing, Navarro has also proven his mettle in recording and acting. His screen characterizations have spelled huge success at the tills, endearing him to the viewing public.
Now, Navarro has another ace up on his sleeves as he reprises Mang Kepweng, a classic role popularized by the late comedy great Chiquito. Titled Mang Kepweng Returns, this project is under the helm of director GB Sampedro and screenwriter Volta Delos Santos. It is poised as a grand opening salvo for local films in 2017.
“I am very lucky to do this film. I know there are many of us who wanted to portray the characters of Papang [Chiquito]. I am also thankful to my producers because they have chosen me of all the comedians in the country,” Navarro told the press during the movie’s launch on December 21.
Mang Kepweng was one of Chiquito’s most unforgettable screen roles. After its original showing in 1976, it had three sequels in 1977, 1979 and 1981 as proof of its commercial viability.
“I wasn’t able to work with him but I researched the way he acted onscreen on YouTube. I want to give justice to the character he played,” Navarro intimated.
The makers assured that this comedy-fantasy-adventure-horror offering is only loosely based on the past Mang Kepweng films. According to them, they only took parts and patterns of the former Mang Kepweng movies but have put in an all-new story.
“I studied the first film. We made sure that the treatment we use here is suitable and appropriate with the new generation today. It’s like we are introducing the old character to the millennials who don’t know about the film and the late Chiquito. Of course, we also have the effort to make this film visually beautiful like the effects that we have put it in,” shared Sampedro.
In the movie, Navarro plays the role of Kiefer, a normal guy who leads a quiet life until he starts experiencing bizarre happenings—seeing ghosts and evil spirits. His mother is then forced to reveal that he is the son of the late traditional healer, Mang Kepweng. Determined to know more about his roots, he travels to the province and gets to know his half-brother, a successful doctor who cannot cure the mysterious illness of his wife.
His brother then reveals that their late father left a scarf that manifests a healing power when worn by “the chosen one.” And after the death of Tatay Kepweng, the chosen one is Kiefer.
Viewers witness many of Kiefer’s adventures such as entering a magical world—where he gets a better understanding of his newfound healing power—and his epic fight with his nemesis.
A supposed entry to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Navarro and his team now consider their non-inclusion in the festival a blessing.
“We were sad because we were not included in the eight official entries, but then we are still happy because Mang Kepweng will be the first local film shown in 2017, plus it falls on my birthday which is January 4. This is the best gift not just for me but also for the staff and crew,” Navarro said, adding that he is still hopeful Mang Kepweng will be as successful as his past movies.
Aside from Mang Kepweng, Navarro also hopes to breathe life to Asiong Aksaya and Mister Wong—iconic roles likewise popularized by Chiquito.
“I am sideswiping this idea to my producers, telling them, ‘If ever you wanted to do other films of Chiquito, I am still here’,” Navarro jested.
Lending support to Navarro is an array of established and talented stars such as Jaclyn Jose, Kim Domingo, Pen Medina, Sunshine Cruz, James Blanco, Louise Delos Reyes, Jackie Rice, Valeen Montenegro, Jhong Hilario and Juancho Triviño. Making special appearances are Lotlot De Leon, Matet De Leon, Ahron Villena, Shalala, Ryan Bang, Helga Krapf, Luz Fernandez, and Odette Khan.
“It’s so good to make a movie whenever my producers are independent because they have the power to put together actors from rival networks. That is why we offer this very special and unique film for the viewers featuring actors and actresses from GMA and ABS-CBN in one film. This is our treat for them this coming New Year,” Navarro finally noted.
Produced by new film outfit Cineko Production, ‘Mang Kepweng Returns’ opens on January 4, 2017.