By Alwin Ignacio

 “Matagal akong nawala pero ito na ‘to. I’m here to stay. I realized that this is what I wanted, and I’m happy that I’m here. So, expect the best version of me in this project.”

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There are five iconic Filipino comic characters that are already ingrained in Pinoy pop culture and history. They are, in no particular order, Darna, Dyesebel,Captain Barbell and Lastik Man; all these are creations of the great comics story teller and master, Mars Ravelo.

Completing this league of extraordinary heroes is Ang Panday, the mythical character created by contemporary storyteller and movie director, Carlo J. Caparas.

Any actor or actress, who have become one of these characters, who have donned their costumes, and used their innate powers for the greater good, whether in film or television, is catapulted to instant stardom. His or her fame pushed to the stratosphere and persona, assured of legendary status and reference in the years to come.

The Caparas comic character came to life on the silverscreen with no less than the King of Philippine movies, the much revered, missed and loved Fernando Poe Jr., giving flesh and heart to Flavio in Ang Panday in 1980. This was followed by Ang Pagbabalik ng Panday (1981), Ang Panday: Ikatlong Yugto(1982) and Ang Panday IV: Ika-Apat na Aklat.

The other film versions made are the ones by  Bong Revilla Jr’.s Dugong Panday  and Jinggoy Estrada’s Hiwagang Panday.This time, the boob tube incarnation will be portrayed by the handsome Richard Gutierrez.

Knowing that he has very big shoes to fill, Richard related. “When they gave me a call and told me that I will be Ang Panday, I was surprised at first, I accepted it of course and my first order of the day was to hit the gym. That was only the start. I have to also prepare mentally and even spiritually for this project.”

Gutierrez added, “Flavio, the main character in Ang Panday is not only  iconic but also legendary. It is the right project, offered at the right time.”

He was away from the limelight for two years, his last TV project was Kis-Pinoy, a search for the next Pinoy K-Pop sensation and was occasionally seen, together with partner Sarah Lahbati and first son, Zion and the rest of the Gutierrez clan in It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez.

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3“Kinailangan ko rin ‘yon, e,” he mused. “I had to step back and look where am I at in the moment.”

Directing the TV series is Mac Alejandre. The director shared, “I’m sure nakitaninyosi Richard four or five months ago at nakita naman ninyo kung gaano kabilis ang pagbabago ng kanyang pangangatawan. Makikita nyo sa trailer iba ang itsura niya, iba ang atake niya.

“As an actor, the past five years helped him mature more as a person. And he would put those experiences to good use in his role as Flavio.”

What makes this different from the previous Ang Panday incarnations? The director answered, “May mga characters na nakasanayan nila, naibigan nila at minahal nila sa Ang Panday. At para ma-update ito, nilagay namin ang Panday sa iba’t-ibang panahon, sa iba’t-ibang situations nakailan man hindi pa nararanasan ni Flavio bilang ‘Panday.’ We made sure to come out with an interesting new adventures of Panday.”

Alejandre and Gutierrez worked in three movies before, namely, Let The Love Begin, I Will Always Love You and In Your Eyes. This is their first TV-fantasy series.

Richard stated, “Ang Panday is my big television comeback. I am not thinking of anything else. BuongpagkataokonasaPanday. It’s perfect timing because matagalngaakongnawala and I’m thankful I am surrounded by supportive people, so confident ako.”

Adding another layer of excitement of the project is the  other “Curtis” who can act, Jasmine Curtis Smith.  This is the first time that the two will play the role of lovers.

The twist in the story arc? In real life, there was a time that Richard Gutierrez’s girlfriend was Anne Curtis, Jasmine’s elder sister. The two other leading ladies are Bangs Garcia and Sam Pinto.

Playing the female antagonist, as the black witch is Regine Tolentino. She quipped, “First time kong maging kontrabida kaya excited ako.  Being a powerful witch, masaya. At least hindi ako nagsasayaw rito. I get to channel my bad side. I hope effective ako.”

Giving life to Flavio’s biggest nemesis, Lizardo is drama king Christopher de Leon. Also in the cast is Epi Quizon, one of the modern day antagonists of Panday.

Alonzo Mulach, the son of Niño Mulach, the only child wonder in Pinoy showbizlandia, acts as the side kick in the fantasy series.

The last time Ang Panday was on television, it was headlined by Jericho Rosales. The public perception to the Rosales led series did not become the TV hit because it was pitted against the four mighty sangres of Encantadia.

Now that it holds the distinction of being the only fanta-seryeof  the network, there should be more creative ways and means to arouse the curiosity of the viewing public.

Richard Gutierrez and the rest of the Ang Panday team are giving their sweat and tears, heart and soul to this project that is why it is imperative that the publicity people of the program must work doubly hard, so that televiewersmust give their love and support that the new show badly needs.

Ang Panday will air daily starting on February 29, 8:30 p.m. on TV5.

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