From swamp to city to TV

From swamp to city to TV

AN animatronic crocodile was brought around the streets of Metro Manila in a publicity stunt to promote the new TV show Lolong. — PHOTO FROM GMA PUBLIC AFFAIRS/TWITTER

SOCIAL media users have been seeing an awful lot of crocodiles on their feeds lately. No, not politicians. Real ones. Sort of. First there were photos of picturesque waterside scenes with captions asking if the viewer could see the crocodile, then news stories of a giant crocodile caught in a Metro Manila river which turned out to be a publicity stunt for a TV show. The show in question is Lolong, a GMA Network production which premieres on July 4.

Lolong is not about Lolong, the gigantic saltwater crocodile that was caught in Bunawan creek in the province of Agusan del Sur in 2011 and that was considered the largest saltwater croc in captivity — it was 6.17 meters in length and weighed in at 1,075 kilos. That one died in 2013 and its remains are now on view at the National Museum of Natural History in Manila.

The show’s crocodile — called Dakila —  is made of a 6.7-meter fiberglass body and silicone skin. For the animal’s movements, the production team used pneumatic technology and an air compressor, as well as computer-generated imagery.

In the show Lolong is a human — played by Ruru Madrid —  who developed an affinity with animals as a child. He has a special friendship with a giant crocodile they call Dakila.

Unfortunately, Armando Banson (played by Christopher De Leon), has made it his personal crusade to kill all crocodiles in his small town of Tumahan, saying that the creatures are a menace to livestock and have been reported to attack and kill people.

Growing up, Lolong kept his friendship with Dakila a secret. But he would also notice peculiar things about himself. In an online press conference on June 20, Mr. Madrid said that there are people like his character who have special abilities and are called atubao. The actor said they live long and heal fast.

The show tackles corruption, abuse of power, and environmental issues, said the actor. The show’s director, Rommel P. Panesa, said that it also carries messages such as “Family comes first” and caring for nature.

“Para sa mga kabataan, maaring magsilbing inspiration ito sa kanila [na] ipaglaban natin ang mga karapatan natin (For the youth, it can serve as an inspiration for them to fight for their rights),” said Mr. Madrid.

Mr. Madrid added that not all heroes have superpowers.

“Basta mayroon kang naiaambag sa pamilya mo, nakakatulong ka sa kalikasan at sa lugar niyo puwede ka ng maging superhero (As long as you are able to contribute to your family, and help in causes for nature and your community, you can be a superhero),” he said.

Joining Mr. Madrid in this series are Shaira Diaz, who plays Lolong’s loyal friend, and Arra San Agustin, who plays travel blogger Bella who in certain situations acts as either friend or foe. Also in the cast are Jean Garcia, Bembol Roco, Malou de Guzman, Rochelle Pangilinan, Paul Salas, and Ian de Leon.

Lolong premieres on July 4 on GMA Telebabad after 24 Oras. Viewers abroad can watch via GMA Pinoy TV. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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