Everything is bright and sunny as the characters of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil, are seated on a bench at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Sunken Garden. With isaw (grilled chicken or pig intestines) sticks in hand, they talk about their dreams; their eyes brimming with hope, love, and wonder. Their latest big screen project, however, also features clips of them in darker tones, with their eyes reflecting pain and sorrow. Such stark contrast leads the young superstars to attest that Alone/Together is a LizQuen movie like no other.
“We’re portraying more mature characters in terms of the issues or with the problems that they have to go through or figure out on their own. They’re mature because these problems that they’re facing aren’t problems that younger people would experience,” Liza explains to Inside Showbiz Weekly. “It would take a sense of maturity to deal with it, to handle it, and to survive or surpass that.”
Enrique adds that their movie has more depth “to the point na the problems weren’t even revolving around us.” Liza points out, “It’s more than just the problem of our love, it deals with problems with yourself and family.” The reel and real couple reveal that they immediately got hooked on the movie’s plot when it was presented to them, even if the story was not finished yet. Despite the script still being in the works, both gave a resounding yes to the offer from Project 8 corner San Joaquin Projects and Black Sheep Productions.
“I really liked the story at first. It really intrigued me because it was really different from the material we had before,” says Enrique. “When we were reading it,” continues Liza, “Upon reading the last sequence, we were shocked. Like oh my gosh! So, what’s gonna happen? So parang sabi namin, ‘We have to do this’ kasi iba ‘yung, when we were reading it, we were excited and nervous. So many emotions were going on na parang sayang naman if we don’t use those emotions we felt while reading it.”
Enrique agrees, “I think the dilemmas of our characters, we’ve never really experienced something like that in our previous films. So, for it to come to life and film it, parang we thought it would be really cool.” He admits to doubting for a moment, though, when he remarked, “‘Oh my gosh, kaya ba natin ito?’” But the LizQuen tandem was determined to take on the project and face the challenges that go with it head-on.
Alone/Together, written and directed by Antoinette “Tonet” Jadaone, is about the relationship of college sweethearts Raf Toledo and Christine “Tin” Lazaro. Such is a storyline that is not foreign to LizQuen given the pair’s hit soap operas and movies. The catch, however, is what happens after their breakup, specifically eight years later when Raf and Tin cross paths again.
“Things have changed drastically. Things changed and we don’t know if Christine is still the same Christine she was before. And Raf is definitely not the same old Raf anymore. So, after eight years, let’s see what happens, you know, how things go after eight years,” states Liza. They do hint that the tables have turned, with Enrique posing the question to Liza’s character, “What happened to you? Bakit? Anong nangyari sa ‘yo?”
What complicates things is that Raf and Tin both have partners when they reconnect as ex-lovers. This aspect touches on the issue of the possibility of emotional cheating. Enrique reacts, “That’s why it was really difficult for us shooting ‘cause just one wrong move, one wrong tone, one wrong look can throw off the whole scene, the whole story and make our characters look very bad. So we just wanted to reconnect. But, of course, when you reconnect, some doors open. But si Tin kasi she’s not just an ex to Raf.”
He goes on, “Parang para sa akin, siya talaga ‘yung great love. I mean the great love might not be the right love but she is still your great love. And just looking at her, the girl who wanted to change the world, to the world really changed her. So it was really sad, parang the Tin after eight years is not like the same Tin that I used to know. She was lost.”
Liza also shares her thoughts on the matter. “I wouldn’t say that I’m for that [emotional cheating]. I wouldn’t want that to happen to myself in real life. But when I got to know their characters, I can’t explain it though, but it doesn’t seem like it is emotional cheating to me because of their great love. But I guess there should be a boundary.”
The amount of work they put into portraying college students was doubled because they had to be meticulous about the school culture they were reflecting. Raf is a Biology student from University of Santo Tomas (UST) while Tin is taking up Art Studies in UP Diliman. “He didn’t really have any dreams,” Enrique says of his character. “He was not a dreamer compared to Tin who was a dreamer. She wanted to do so much. She’s a goal-getter and I was just like, ‘‘Yung dream ko, kung makapasa, edi makapasa.’ Ganun lang ako ’till I met this girl na dreamer.”
He shares a tidbit on the love story of Raf and Tin: “Usually di ba you really get attracted to things and attributes that you really don’t see in yourself. And I saw it in her and I was like, ‘Wow!’” Liza, meanwhile, gives more details about Tin: “She is very ambitious. Her dreams may seem unrealistic, but she believes that she can prove everybody wrong.
Liza admits to immersing herself in UP just to get a feel of how it is to be an Iskolar ng Bayan. “I actually attended Art Studies classes then I interviewed four students and one professor in UP. I was asking them questions about how the experience is as a UP student, the experience as an Art Studies major, why they chose to go to UP, and everything about it. And then I also got to go around UP. I stayed at the Sunken Garden. I went to Area 2.”
Enrique shares a fun experience when they had a meal at Area 2. “It kinda felt cool, like we were students, normal students.” He then talks about his preparation for the role of Raf: “Well, I went to college for one sem so I kinda got a feel of being a student. But ‘yun nga, I didn’t really have much scenes kasi in UST. Usually sa UP with her. ‘Yung character naman ni Raf, he was a college student but it really wasn’t in his heart. So it really wasn’t hard for me compared to her.”
Aside from being particular about portraying UP and UST students, Liza and Enrique were faced with another challenge: shooting in the blistering cold while overseas in January. “I really enjoyed shooting in New York but it was very cold, though. It was really hard to do emotional scenes there, but it was really fun. I think the cold weather when we were there somewhat also helped in making the scenes, aesthetically and more,” comments Liza.
Enrique adds, “Yes, even the cold would really give you feels. I love New York. I love New York so much. The scene was so alive. And it was my dream to shoot a movie there ’cause our first [overseas movie shoot] is we went to South Korea. I really wanted to go to New York. Kahit sa States man lang, to get the feels. New York pa so ang ganda ng scenery.”
Another first for the love team is the opportunity to work with their screenwriter-director. “It was amazing working with Direk Tonet. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s very smart. It seems like when we’re working with her, she’s our age because she can connect with us on that level and she really inspires us and she motivates us. And it was just really fun working with her,” says Liza. “She said to notice who our characters are. She trusts us enough to go the scene.”
Enrique shares more about the collaboration with Direk Tonet as they were discussing how to shoot certain scenes. “She’s super cool, that’s what I like about her. She does not really give us the freedom, but she trusts us. Usually from the other directors we worked with, I really depend on them a lot. I think that’s how I was just used to before with the directors I was working with. But kay Direk Tonet, [she said] ‘Ikaw, ikaw bahala. Ewan ko sa ‘yo,’” he details, then clarifies, “But not all [scenes], some of it were like that.”
Although dealing with the biting cold and tackling a more mature storyline was already a lot to handle, Liza stresses that the movie’s greatest challenge is playing out the existential crisis of her character. “It was really difficult, to be honest. I have a lot of scenes where Christine’s facing so many problems. She has problems that she deals within herself, within her love for Raf, within her current partner. So it was really hard because I haven’t dealt with anything like that in real life. I can’t relate on that level of maturity and pain but the most I can do is approximate it to something that I dealt with.”
With that in mind, Liza makes this known: “I think, hopefully, this movie becomes an eye-opener for everybody, especially those who have graduated, ’cause we will go through to that point of our life when we don’t know what to do. We don’t know who we are, we’re not sure what to do.” The 21-year-old also wishes that moviegoers will be encouraged to follow their dreams and be true to themselves.
Enrique, for his part, comments: “Well, the movie is, it’s more about love—young adults, about their dreams, when you grow up, and years after. Are you still the same person when you were young? Nakamit mo ba ‘yung dreams mo? And if not, are you happy from what you’ve become? May regrets ka ba? Parang ganun.”
They reveal that they have grown so much from this film not just as actors but as young adults. “Huwag mong isipin who I was but always think who I was supposed to be. It’s never too late,” declares the 26-year-old Enrique. With regards to love, the sweethearts admit to learning a thing or two about it while portraying Raf and Tin. “Do what it takes to fight for that love,” asserts Liza as she pertains to that one great love. Enrique surmises, “I think love can make you do anything in the world. But also, love can stop you from doing that, I think.”