While I am fully aware that Michael Copon has many other projects under his belt, he will still always be Felix from One Tree Hill to me. The Filipino-American actor-director has long had a special place in my heart and he aims to continue to keep his spot there with 1521, a film that will depict a clandestine love story against the backdrop of the epic clash between pre-colonial Filipinos and Spanish forces of Ferdinand Magellan in Mactan, Philippines more than 500 years ago.
Alongside US-based Filipino producer, 1521 boasts a powerhouse cast including Copon himself, renowned American actor Danny Trejo, Filipino superstar Bea Alonzo, and award-winning actress Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.
1521 opens with the character Didi or Diwata, who dreams of being transported to the pre-colonial Philippines while exploring the ruins of an ancient Spanish fort. In her dream, she becomes a native princess who falls in love with Magellan’s handsome translator Enrique — their romance caught up in the conflict. The events become more complicated after Didi awakens, and soon finds the line between her dream and reality blurring.
The film will also be told largely from the perspective of Lapu-Lapu, regarded as the first Filipino hero for leading the forces that defeated the Spaniards.
Michael, who will both direct the film and portray Lapu-Lapu, shares that he took on the project to highlight Filipino history and culture.
“People don’t know what happened to Magellan. Some people in America think he just died. And a lot of times, the history of the Philippines gets pushed under the rug, unnoticed, which led to the passion that we wanted to embrace those stories and embrace the culture, and say ‘Hey! Let me get this out there,’” the Power Rangers actor adds. “Even more historic is, this is the first time a Hollywood director and producer are producing a movie about a Filipino story with Hollywood stars and Filipino stars in one movie.”
Danny, who starred in the Machete and From Dusk till Dawn film series, will play Magellan.
Bea will take on the role of Diwata while Puerto Rican actor Hector David Jr., who also appeared in Power Rangers, will portray her love interest Enrique.
Michael reveals that 1521 will not focus entirely on the Battle of Mactan, as the romance between Diwata and Enrique will prove to be the “heart and soul” of the story. “We didn’t want to make a movie that is just about the battle and the war,” he explains.
Lara Ho shares that the film will be shot entirely in Palawan, which was picked for its scenic beaches and mountains. The producer, himself a Palaweño, hopes to provide more opportunities to the people in the province through the project. “I am actually pleasantly surprised when we did the casting that there are quite a few Palaweños who are really incredible in talent. They just need the opportunities and so that’s what we are bringing here,” Lara Ho says. “Sad to say that Palawan is one of the richest in terms of natural resources but our poverty level is very high compared to other provinces. That’s why I’m hoping that bringing projects here would change that.”
1521 is scheduled for release on June 12, 2023, coinciding with the 125th celebration of Philippine Independence Day.
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