‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things’

CEBU. Actor and SunStar Cebu columnist Publio Briones. (SunStar)
CEBU. Actor and SunStar Cebu columnist Publio Briones. (SunStar)

While most people recognize Publio J. Briones III as columnist and editor of SunStar Cebu (Pubs or Sir Pubs to his friends and colleagues), this talented creative is also known for his acting prowess, playing riveting antagonist roles including a retired corrupt politician in the hit indie film “Confessional” (2007) directed by Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Antipuesto. The movie earned Briones a Cinema One Originals award and a handful of nominations, including a Famas (The Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards) nomination. The Famas is recognized as the “Oscars of the Philippines.”

After 11 years, Briones is nominated once again for a Famas award for his recent film project “A Short Story of a Few Bad Things,” directed by Cebuano filmmaker Keith Deligero. Get to know Briones, his recent work and what keeps him sane.

MRL: How does it feel being nominated once more?

PJB: I was shocked—pleasantly so, because I found out about it after work by midnight. I was just browsing through the internet.

MRL: Tell us about your character, Chief Ouano. What’s he like?

PJB: My character is a police chief overseeing the investigation of several murders and he’s up against the system, doing his best to keep sane. So for once, I’m not the kontrabida here. All of my previous roles (almost 99 percent of them) were kontrabida, so it’s nice to play a police chief who’s clean.

MRL: How did you prepare for the role?

PJB: There I was at the garage of the town house the director was renting out. I sat there at the chaise lounge with my name on it after lunch for the next several hours just reading my lines. Naturally, people started staring because when they passed by, they could see me without my shirt—just my shorts and barefoot—reading scripts in English and Bisaya, and we were in Rizal, Manila. The director (Deligero) just let me be. I previously worked with him on his short film “Babylon” where I played a barangay captain. So, he said, “something along that line, Pubs.” Just a few little tweaks to the performance which I highly appreciated.

MRL: Did it help that you worked with him before making it easier for you to consider taking on this role?

PJB: I think it helped that he wrote the role with me in mind. That was also what happened in “Confessional” too. Jerrold Tarog wrote the character of Lito Caliso with me in mind. I think from the nuances, the layers, mannerisms -- the director also envisions that. All I had to do was show up and just open my mouth.

MRL: What was it like on the set of “A Short History of a Few Bad Things”?

PJB: Most of us were from Cebu, and it helped that my fellow actors Victor Neri and Jay Gonzaga understood Bisaya so I felt at home. We all lived in the same place during the shoot; in fact, Victor would cook.

MRL: Looking back, what drew you to acting? How did it all begin?

PJB: I never considered myself an actor or artista, as they say. Maybe more of “artistahon” (laughs). Ever since I was a kid, I was never shy. I grew up in a very musical house. I first joined the glee club when I studied abroad and got the role of Mr. McAfee in the play “Bye Bye, Birdie.” After that, I went to Switzerland, did some plays there. I finished school in Kuwait, then Pittsburgh for college. When I came back (to the Philippines) there was no acting. I joined SunStar Cebu in 1997 as copy editor. Then in the early 2000s, Lorenzo Niñal had this 15-minute play called “Ang Terminal.” The late Alex Uypuanco asked if I was interested. It was two people: me and Greg Fernandez, who used to work at SunStar. Every night after work, Alex would just talk to me and try to draw out the emotion that I found hard to unleash without the help of my trusty Tanduay bottle.

MRL: Tell us about that. Is it something you require when you’re filming?

PJB: It’s one of those things that I require and what people who know me anticipate. I’m very low maintenance. When I appear on set, I’m ready. But when the going gets tough, I need my Tanduay. I don’t drink before the call time. I arrive on set sober and ready, of course. But after hours of rigorous acting, I go, “excuse me, can I have a sip?”

MRL: For projects, what draws you in more? The script or the people mostly?

PJB: I value friendships. In fact, I trust them. I work full time as an editor and columnist. I don’t go out on auditions. It’s like someone calls me and says they have a role for me. It’s mostly supporting roles—meaty supporting roles. It was Jerrold who encouraged me to go ahead and drink every night. He said my face suited the role, like the weight of the world was on my shoulders—because I always had a hangover the whole time we shot “Confessional”!

MRL: How do you balance being a columnist/editor of SunStar as well as take on projects?

PJB: There’s no need to balance because it’s 99.9 percent me working at SunStar, six days a week. I’m happy if I get to do a project or two in a year. It’s not like I do it all the time. Although if you ask former editor-in-chief Pachico A. Seares, when we would go to Westpoint Inn and sing karaoke, he would always point out, “You’re a better singer than an editor.” I don’t know if that was an insult or what. I agreed with him and I still agree with him (laughs).

MRL: What’s your advice to aspiring actors?

PJB: Just have fun, don’t overthink the role or delivery. I think that’s why they like me? What do you call it? The “no-acting” acting? It also helps that before you start rolling, you know your character inside and out. Have fun and enjoy what you do. Otherwise, don’t do it.


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