Fans of Bob Ong, rejoice! His latest novel, “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin,” is about to get made into a movie.
Just don’t expect the bestselling author to come out and acknowledge the applause. True to his mystique of anonymity, only his publisher showed up to sign the contract with the producer.
Nobody knows who Bob Ong is. That is not his real name. His identity is a tighly guarded secret at his publishing house, Visprint. The guessing game is part of his growing legend as possibly the most successful Filipino author today.
His nine novels have sold a total of over 300,000 copies—an astounding figure in a country where selling 5,000 copies is enough for a book to be labeled a bestseller.
“Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin” came out just last December, and instantly came to the attention of Viva Entertainment.
By early January, Viva and Ong were already negotiating for the movie rights through email—the only form of correspondence the author allows.
Before the end of the month, a contract that includes the rights to the author’s first novel, “A B N K K B S N P L Ako,” was signed at the Viva office by Viva executive vice president Vincent del Rosario and Visprint’s Nida Ramirez, representing the author.
Pre-production is already in progress for “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin,” a satirical look at commercial filmmaking with three different stories rendered in screenplay form.
On paper, the book looks tailor-made for the big screen. But Ong thought otherwise.
“I have doubts about the suitability of ‘Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’ for a feature film,” he noted in his first email to Viva. “It could be tricky, and much of the humor could be lost in translation. I don’t see it as a movie at the moment. But if you have a vision and a team which is up to the challenge, I’d be glad to let my publisher discuss the possibilities with you.”
For the past few years, Viva has been trying to start a specialty division that will house fresh, forward-thinking, out-of-the-box films. The perfect material has eluded the company until he read Ong’s 9th novel.
“‘Lumayo’ is what we have been looking for,” Del Rosario said. “It’s the kind of non-formulaic film with commercial appeal that we want our new division, Sunshine Films, to carry.”
Del Rosario sees this adaptation of Ong’s novel as a return to the 30-year old movie company’s roots.
“Viva made a name for itself in the ‘80s with a string of hit movie adaptations of komiks material such as ‘Mahawi Man Ang Ulap.’ We also made an adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s short story “Tatarin.” So we are just going back to that literary tradition.”
Didn’t Viva take offense at the material, which pokes delirious fun at the very school of commercial moviemaking that happens to be the company’s bread and butter?
Del Rosario thinks this project will show that Viva can take a joke.
“We enjoyed the novel because it’s so true. We see ourselves doing the very clichés that Bob Ong satirizes wonderfully in the book,” he said.
Viva has tapped Mark Meilly, award-winning writer and director of acclaimed comedies ‘Crying Ladies’ and ‘La Visa Loca’ and the historical film ‘Baler,’ to lead the project.
The choice has received Ong’s approval.
“I’d like to express my confidence in Mr. Mark Meily,” he wrote. “While I cannot tell which director might be best suited for this, I am comforted that Viva didn’t pick a bad one.”
“Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin” will hit cinemas later this year.