Posted August 14, 2016 by Yuri Mangahas in Movies/TV

THE DIALOGUE: Playing A Game of Patintero with MIHK VERGARA

Let me start off with a quick story, if you will.

Two decades ago, like every kid back then, I was a gutsy youngster who would brave the streets after school time just to play for kicks. I remember calling out on strangers just to play a game of tag, hide and seek, tumbang preso, and patintero, dependent on our mood. I made a lot of friends (and a few enemies too) just by playing outdoors. Those were great days, and I sure made the most out of them.

Fast forward to 2016.

I chanced upon Cinema 76′ booth last ToyCon weekend, and they were heavily featuring the movie Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo.  I gave the trailer a gander, and all of those gutsy kid memories flashed back like a film strip rolling on a crazy REM roll. It feels nice knowing we have films like this that veer away from the gloomy atmosphere of black dramas and thrillers, and instead, focus on revisiting the old days where these games prevailed on the streets.

Out of curiosity, our team approached the film staff to have a chat with its director, Mihk Vergara regarding the film, its conception, and how his influences helmed the project.


How did the conception for Patintero start?

Funnily enough, Patintero started out as an entry to the first Neil Gaiman contest-type-thing for Fully Booked.  I wrote, and my friend Dave Alegre did the art. We submitted an unfinished story, but we never lost our love for the project.  Since then it’s been gestating, and I refined it when I could over the years, and Dave never stopped drawing the characters.

When the idea popped in that I could theoretically make this thing into a movie, I started developing it and thinking of ways to stay true to the spirit of that comic and make it logistically possible for it to be translated into a film.

Can we say that the film is perhaps a translation or mirror of the team’s respective childhood experiences and influences?

I think the crew brought their own experiences to the different departments, and that got translated.  You’ll have to ask them if you want a more definite answer though!  I will vouch for our writer, Zig Marasigan though, as he and I were raised by our grandmothers, and that’s a big emotional anchor in the story.


It’s tough playing Patintero, especially if you’re a superhero. Photo from TBA.

How did you select the actors for Patintero? What can you say about working with these kids?
From the start I knew I wanted a specific set of kids who didn’t act in a way you would normally expect in the medium.  There’s a stigma of Kid Acting that people are wary about so we needed kids that could push beyond that.  We held auditions for 3 months, looking at close to a hundred kids per casting session.  Nafa Cruz showed up on the very last day of the auditions, and we knew she was going to be our Meng.  Before that, we would form a Team based on the best kids of that day.  So when we Nafa came along we already had different permutations of the core group of Patalos.  It was easy to shuffle them around and form the other rival teams from there.Working with the kids was great, I have no complaints. I think what touched me the most was how attached they were to the project and each other, so shooting the scenes was great. And you sort of see that these kids want it, want a career in this industry, and that’s always good to have on set especially if you’re shooting action scenes almost every shooting day.

Meng (center) assembles a ragtag squad of kids as they challenge youngsters on the ultimate game of Patintero. Photo from TBA

We were told that Patintero’s heavily inspired by Anime. Which Anime shows/films in particular?
It’s definitely heavily inspired by Anime.  Growing up I was fan of the sports Anime that aired here: Slam Dunk, Battleball, Captain Tsubasa (which aired on NHK, which was part of our cable deal for some reason).  It was later in life that it dawned on me that the Japanese could make a competitive shounen series out of anything, so that figured in into Patintero’s inception.  And from then I really haven’t stopped watching.  I’m pretty in to Haikyuu now.Though more than anything it was the 2002 live action adaptation of Taiyou Matsumoto’s Ping Pong by Fumihiko Sori that influenced me the most.  It proved that you needn’t have Shaolin Soccer effects or budget to tell a shounen sports series.

Let us discuss your directorial background. When did it dawn to you that you wanted to become a director?


Rakista is one of Mihk’s projects that exemplifies his style of inducing the fun and Pinoy vibe to a story. Photo by TV5.

I think when I started loving cartoons. I didn’t know what a director was, but I knew I wanted to use the medium to tell stories. I couldn’t draw for shit though, so as I grew older I sort of gravitated to live action. By the time I hit college I knew for sure I wanted to be a director.

What/who are your influences in terms of filmmaking?

Other movies naturally, but comics, video games and animation are other influences I draw from. Each medium has particular quirks or tropes that are fun to use in film. Oh and take what you want from this: My top 3 films of all time are Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, Army of Darkness and Evil Dead.

How can you describe your style as a helmer?

Fun? Let’s go with fun. Haha. I think I’m still trying to develop my own style as of press time.

What can you say to aspiring helmers/filmmakers out there?

If you really want it to happen, make it happen. I’ve carried Patintero with me for over 10 years, and I chipped away at it, trying to make it happen, always being in the shortlist for funds and festivals. But the persistence paid off. A lot of filmmakers won’t get their chance immediately, and those that do are few and far between. So if you really want it, then be patient.

Catch the cast and crew behind Patintero, as they will be joining other guests in this year’s Asia Pop Comic Con Manila event. For more updates, stay tuned to FlipGeeks!

Yuri Mangahas

Yuri is magnanimously juggling between two managerial jobs: A technical manager position for an advertising/copy-writing company, and an associate editorial position for a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Nevertheless, he still finds time taking photos and seeking for geek nirvana.