There is no question that Matt is the star in my film “Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa.”

As the romantic lead, I want him to be extremely handsome like Piolo Pascual. So in choosing the actor for the role of Matt, I first thought of a certified heartthrob. I even thought that we could fake the singing part in favor of a gorgeous face.

I don’t know much about the Filipino showbiz scene anymore, so when my friend Jeehan Fernandez floated to me several names of Ilonggo performers who have gotten some national attention, I just started checking them out on YouTube. That’s how I found Eman Abatayo. Clearly, Eman is no Piolo Pascual; and he is not even as skinny as I have originally written the character.

But there is something about Eman that speaks true to me as Matt. As it turned out, Eman’s life story is very much like Matt’s — orphaned as a boy, raised by his grandmother, found refuge in music, sought out a career in showbiz, loved some, and got broken-hearted.

Such identification with the role drew Eman to my film, and I thought that if he has lived the life of Matt without my knowing it, how could I go wrong by going with him?

Of course, the film medium has certain demands. Eman cannot play Matt as Eman. If he is to be an actor, he must give life to my character, not shape the character to his personality.

Eman and I both know that this is going to be a challenge, but he trusts me as his director, and I have confidence in him as an actor.

Matt’s role will be played by Ilonggo singer-songwriter and Pinoy Dream Academy (PDA) alumnus Eman Abatayo who might actually come up with an original composition for the movie.

Peter Silos Nery