World-class boxer, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and award-winning actor Cesar Montano are set to star in Inspire Studios’ first international production.
Pacquiao and Montano will topbill “Freedom Fighters,” a movie based on real events that happened on the island of Panay as the Japanese forces were invading the country in 1941.
“Freedom Fighters” has Pacquiao playing Col. Macario Peralta, Jr., the leader of the guerilla resistance who, with the help of a local pastor, played by Montano, got American Baptist missionaries and miners to a remote area dubbed as “Hopevale.”
Pacquiao is also on board as co-producer of Francis Lara Ho, founder of Inspire Studios.
“Freedom Fighters” is special to Ho, who also is set to direct the film. Francis, who has established businesses in the US and the Philippines, is originally from Iloilo and got his degree in B.S. Nursing from Central Philippine University in Jaro.
“This one is closest to my heart because basically the ‘Freedom Fighters’ is a story based on the group of the book ‘Guerrilla Wife,’” he explained, “It’s the story of a group of Americans in Iloilo during World War II. They were doctors, they were preachers, they were missionaries and there were another group of mining engineers who became guerilla fighters and basically the story is they decided not to surrender to the Japanese, but eventually got caught and executed. But here’s the power of the story. It changed history because their death resulted to intelligence that reached [Gen. Douglas] McArthur and McArthur got back to the Philippines because of the intelligence that they brought to Australia.”
Ho related that the US Army also reached out to him because of the project. “I received a call from the US Army thanking me for honoring them, because this story is about the 741 US Army boys – I call them boys because they were 18 and 19 years old who gave their lives in Iloilo. They will be honored in the movie as well. Meanwhile, the missionaries, who were also part of the ‘Freedom Fighters,’ are the guys that started Central Philippine University, where I graduated from, and also Iloilo Mission Hospital. These guys, if not for them, I won’t be here. A lot of great Filipino leaders in the US and around the world will not be in existence if not for the legacy of these Americans.”
Ho has high hopes for “Freedom Fighters,” which is also co-produced by Pacquaio, as well as the three other films that Inspire Studios have lined up: “Open Doors,” “The Rescue” and “Palawan: Last Man Out.”
“‘Open Doors’ will be focusing on the Jewish families that President Quezon helped. Mr. Ricky Avanceña [President Quezon’s grandson] is actually our consultant,” he related.
“About ‘The Rescue,’ we are all familiar with the story of Gracia Burnham’s rescue, but we don’t know the story of the rescuer – a Filipino hero, a young captain who is a PMA graduate,” he further said.
Meanwhile, “Palawan: Last Man Out” will feature the contribution of the Palawan Bolo Battalion during World War II. “If you’ve been to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, there’s a war camp where 150 Americans were burned alive. Eleven of them survived because of the Palawan Bolo Battalion. ‘Palawan: Last Man Out’s’ story will not only focus on the Americans but also the special participation of the Palawan Bolo Battalion.”
By telling the real story of ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, Inspire Studios aim to impact the lives of its viewers.
“These movies will not be your typical Hollywood World War II movies where the glory goes to only one group of people. These are actually global films which will honor all sides of the story – both the Filipinos and the Americans,” he said.
Their hope, ultimately, is that their movie will win for the Philippines its first Academy Award.
“It is also our vision to win the first Oscar for the Philippines. That’s the reason we are doing the standard and the quality that they are doing in Hollywood,” he explained. “And our mission is we want to uplift and demonstrate to the world the greatness of the Filipino people.”