Dec 05
BEHIND THE STUNTS by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Dec 5, 2007

The stunt is the most important ingredient of an action film. Sometimes the stunts make or unmake an action star like in the case of Lito Lapid and Dante Varona, who both rose from being a lowly stuntman into the stellar persona of an action star.

Although carefully crafted and precisely executed, there’s no guarantee that the stunt will be a success in terms of cinematic requirements. Accident is the bane of all stunts. Evel Kneivel, the famous American stuntman, had his share of accidents and mishaps like failing to fall from a bridge and instead landing on the pavement or a miscalculated motorbike ramp stunt that left him in coma for 29 days. In a recent report, the former daredevil was baptized in the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove to be a new Christian. The 68-year old Evel Kneivel is still sprightly despite a liver transplant and diabetes.

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In the local scene at present, Eddie Mañalac’s name stands out as one of the most reliable stuntmen we have around. “Kasi po pinagbubutihan ko talaga ang stunt,” Eddie says with obvious humility. “Meron kasing iba na pera lang ang iniisip. Pero sa akin po ay yung trabaho. Kasi sa movies po ay importante na maitama ang eksena kaya dapat laging perfect ang execution ng stunt.”

In Ysabella, the high-rating soap of ABS-CBN, there was a sequence where Andrew (Ryan Agoncillo) will perish in a car crash. “Matagal po ang planning dun tapos marami ring taong tumulong sa akin gaya ng spotter.” Eddie handled the car in that accident scene where the vehicle swerved then crashed. The proverbial ramp plus the optimum speed of the car produced the required movements of the subject car. It was a perfect shot according to Eddie except for one thing – blood was oozing from his forehead when he got out of the subject car. “Hindi ko naramdaman kaya nagulat din ako nung magsigawan sila na may dugo ako sa ulo,” exclaims Eddie with a voice evident of fear. He was brought to the San Juan De Dios Hospital where the doctor closed his gaping wound with five stitches. And the cause of the mishap? Eddie forgot to wear his crash helmet.

More on Ysabella, Eddie was bypassed in the next car stunt. “Namahalan po yata sa presyo ko kaya kumuha ng iba,” quips Eddie. In that next shoot, Totoy Magno had to drive the car and swerve, just swerve without any collision. But then the route of the car was miscalculated and its rear bumper hit a post. As a result of that unforeseen mishap, the driver suffered a chest injury which eventually caused his death. “Tumama raw po ang dibdib sa manibela tapos hindi makahinga. Siguro may problema na rin sa puso.” Incidentally, according to Eddie, that stuntman Totoy who was only 39 years old was the one who caused the death of another stuntman named Lito Mina. It was a stunt for the movie Bawal na Gamot starred in by Romnick Sarmenta. Totoy lost control of the bus that hit Lito who died on the spot.

“Ganyan po kadelikado ang trabaho namin kaya preferred ko po yung direct hire. Example po pag ABS ang kumuha sa akin tapos pag may nangyari siguro naman hindi ako pababayaan ng ABS.” There’s an added risk in the common practice of entering a sort of sub-contract because when an accident happens, his agent (or the one who gets a commission from the main contract) will not shoulder the responsibility. And more likely, the big network will not be concerned either because it was the agent who has a contract with them.

The risk in a stuntman’s job is greater when one considers the logistics. “Sa Amerika po kasi gumagastos sila nang malaki lalo na dun sa mga gagamiting sasakyan. Dito naman po sa atin, halatang luma yung mga kotse kasi sisirain lang naman. Madalas nga po wala na ang flooring,” Eddie fails to restrain his laughter. In one of Robin Padilla’s movies, there was a car worth 350,000 pesos to be crashed and then crumpled. It was expensive, yes, because it was Robin who did the stunt.

As regards fear, Eddie admits that fear surrounds him all the time. “Nakataya po kasi ang buhay namin kaya hindi puwedeng sabihin na wala kaming kaba. Syempre po hindi nawawala sa amin ang takot kasi sa isang pagkakamali lang ay…” he intentionally did not finish his statement as if he doesn’t want anyone to hear him sounding melodramatic.

Due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities, the young Eddie was forced to enter showbusiness via the shorter route, that of a stuntman. “Mahirap po kasi ang trabahong ito kaya madaling pumasok pero mahirap labasan,” Eddie jokingly says. Gifted with a good physique and a moderate height, Eddie was instantly given a role as a double. “Mga martial arts po muna nung una tapos yung mga tumatalon na hanggang natuto na ko sa mga car stunts.”

Joe Pring which starred Phillip Salvador was Eddie’s stepping stone. “May kotse pong mahuhulog sa Del Pan Bridge,” Eddie vividly remembers. Phillip had wanted to do the stunt himself but the risk of danger was very high so they settled for a double. “Masyado pong delikado kasi tatalon yung kotse sa tulay tapos mahuhulog sa tubig kaya doble ang panganib.” Fortunately, the stunt registered very well on the big screen which made it rewarding for Eddie and his family.

Offers of projects came in droves and Eddie’s name started to flourish in the movie industry. He is popular particularly with the production people. “Eh kasi po nakikisama naman ako sa lahat. Isa pa po yung pagiging maaga sa set para wala kang taong pinaghihintay.” Professionalism is still what matters the most.

“Yung Masahol Pa Sa Hayop, yun po ang sumunod.” It again has Phillip Salvador for the lead with Agot Isidro for the leading lady. An owner-type jeep would jump over five cars. And that’s what Eddie did – a picture-perfect shot. “Ang ganda nga po ng kuha sa camera kasi parang lumilipad yung owner (jeep),” Eddie says with pride.

His most memorable stunt was that in Maginoong Barumbado, another Phillip Salvador starrer together with Carmina Villaroel. He had steered a car which in turn had crashed into the windshield of a bus. That was another picture-perfect stunt. “Palagay ko po yun ang pinakamaganda sa lahat ng ginawa ko kasi parang ibinato ang dating ng kotse.”

In Hangga’t May Hininga, Eddie was like shooting for the moon. Although done with some of the so-called camera tricks, hitting a helicopter with an old car is not an ordinary stunt. “Nakakabilib nga po kasi kotse tapos helicopter ang tinira.” It was another Phillip starrer but with Anjanette Abayari this time.

It’s now noticeable that most of his stunts were in the movies of Phillip Salvador, directed by Toto Natividad and written by Meek Roxas. “Eh kasi po favorite stuntman daw ako ni Kuya Ipe,” Eddie laughs with candor. “Eh si Direk Toto naman ang favorite director ni Kuya Ipe saka si Meek Roxas ang favorite writer. Ganyan po kasi si Kuya Ipe, kung sino ang ma-gamayan niya gusto nya yun na lang lagi.”

It was actually Phillip Salvador who gave Eddie Mañalac a break in stunts. And that first break had earned Eddie his first award – Best Stunt Man for 1992 – given by Star Awards. “Malaking tulong po ang mga awards na yan kasi yan ang nagbibigay ng gana sa mga pareho namin. Syempre po iba yung tatawagin ka sa stage,” Eddie says with a serious face. He had wanted to organize a guild for stuntmen but he doesn’t know the ins and outs of organizing. Also, he is afraid that politics may just get in the way.

In television, his latest appearances were in Sugo and Captain Barbell. “May double po ako tapos meron ding ako mismo pero hindi na kilala ang character, parang extra na lang po,” beams Eddie who appears fit and trim in his jogging pants and loose t-shirt.

Eddie does not deny his somewhat celebrity status. “Medyo po, feeling sikat na rin, medyo.” He was sought by the researchers of the Mel and Jay program for an interview and was featured in the Sugal Ng Buhay segment. “May bayad din po, parang talent fee. Maliit lang po pero okey na yun.”

Eddie’s latest movie is Anak Ng Kumander, which banners Manny Pacquiao and Ara Mina. There’s not much stunt in the movie so Eddie is cast as one of the bad guys. “Kasa-kasama lang po ako ng mga kontrabida,” says Eddie of his so-so role in the movie directed by Kaka Balagtas. Asked about the intriguing question on the real score between Ara Mina and Manny Pacquiao, Eddie plays it safe by saying, “One day lang po ako sa shooting kaya hindi ko po alam.”

He was, however, included in Enteng Kabisote 4. “May stunts po kasi si Bossing Vic. Mahuhulog po sa bangin yung owner (jeep) kaya ayun ako po ang driver nun.” His stunt was a short one and can be considered ordinary but since it is for an entry in the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival, Eddie feels very proud and excited.

His second son Edwin admits that no one among his brood wants to follow in Eddie’s footsteps. “Mahirap ho kasi ang trabaho, delikado ho saka ayaw din ho niya.” As with the fear of untimely losing their father, Edwin smiles, “Sanay na ho kami. Kasi ipinanganak ho kami na yan na ang trabaho niya.”

With his children, Eddie is a disciplinarian. “Mahigpit po. Bawal ang bisyo saka kailangan po mag-aral. Takot nga po kami kasi nagagalit ho siya pag may palpak kami.” Edwin is taking up Automotive since he had experienced working as a diesel calibrator in the car shop before. He says further that Eddie is a good provider. “Lahat naman po ng kailangan namin ay ibinibigay kaya pinipilit po naming sundin ang gusto niya.” Since Edwin is good looking, there’s a chance that he can enter the movies as an actor. Edwin nods to question, oblivious that he has just shown his timidity that is a big handicap in show business.

Stuntmen come and go but Eddie Mañalac is here to stay for a few more years. “Bata pa po ako,” he says while signalling that he is only 40. And how about his 10 children? He signals a 2 to mean he has 10 children from 2 wives.

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com