'Juan Dela Cruz,' A Visual Perspective
Manila Bulletin – Thu, Jan 31, 2013
MANILA, Philippines - Some might deem our local entertainment to be wanting in perspective, particularly in the use of visual effects as supposedly seen in most fantasy-horror outings. The main point of contention being that the industry, as a matter of course, would often skimp on research - whether on effects, costumes or art - purportedly in lieu of expediency and cost cutting, accuracy be damned.
Belying this notion is Noel Layon "Atongwali" Flores, a visual artist and professional costume and effects designer who has been credited with some of the more arresting images seen on TV and films of late including ABS-CBN's upcoming Coco Martin-starrer, "Juan dela Cruz."
According to Flores, contrary to popular belief, most of today's local productions do invest in visual development. Of course, he doesn't deny that there will always be issues of budget constraints but it is not as if they are being ordered to ignore purpose and meaning altogether in creating their visuals.
Citing his ongoing work on "Juan dela Cruz," Flores related that ABS-CBN supported him all out in his research to be able to deliver a workable and authentic enough visual theme to support a story that explores esoteric themes abundant in Philippine culture, with a focus on the Aswang.
"There was no limitations imposed in terms of what I could imagine and do, they even allowed me to create my own mythology," he said, describing how he came up with the visuals for the fantasy drama.
Flores mainly focused on the creation of the special weapon of Martin's character, the Bakal Na Krus. He related that he sourced out materials dating to the pre-colonial times, to be as accurate as possible in terms of depicting a weapon that is aesthetically very Filipino.
"More than that I made a conscious decision to link the visuals I used in the series to the Katipunan so... most of the weapons we made are based on actual bolos used by Katipuneros," he shared.
He also added some personal considerations.
"I also made use of ideas that I sourced from my research on the Crusades, particularly on what type of metal to use in the design of the Bakal Na Krus. As a nod to my past as a game developer, I added some gems on its design as well. There is also some Aramaic script engraved on the Krus."
He admitted that the Bakal Na Krus has something in common with the weapon on another iconic Pinoy hero, Ang Panday, in that it transforms into a sword.
"Pero we leveled [it] up in that the Bakal Na Krus can also transform into a bow, a spear and a whip," Flores explained.
Flores' work went beyond the show's weaponry; he also envisioned the costume design of the show's characters, with each having their own symbolic meaning.
"Everything, from the most obvious ones to the smallest, most obscure detail... they all have bearing," he said, maintaining that visual design shouldn't only be ornamental but cerebral -- serving as an important part in communicating the story as a whole to its audience.
"As a visual designer I try to be faithful to what is culturally acceptable based on existing books and historical artifacts. We don't just create for the sake of creating. As much as we don't want to offend, we also don't want to distort people's belief and perception."