Pelikula Q&A with Juana Change
by Jansen Musico
When you keep alternating between two unique personas, one more outlandish than the other, chances are, you have a personality disorder. That isn’t the case for actress and advertising mogul Mae Paner. When her better-known irate YouTube doppelganger Juana Change, takes over her body, it’s time for action. Juana Change to Mae Paner is a Hulk to Bruce Banner. She’s become the face of several socio-political advocacies, the hand that pushes this new generation to be more proactive. With Juana C. The Movie, she’s taking her act to the big screen.
Where do you draw the line between Mae Paner and Juana Change?
There was a time I was in a cab, and the driver was trying to kick me out because he wanted me to add 50 pesos to the meter. And I got so furious at him. I felt as though it wasn’t me. It must have been Juana Change, because she’s so matapang. I’m matapang as Mae, but I’m not as matapang as the character that just came out then. That must have been Juana Change. Mae is more regular. Juana’s the one who wears colorful wigs. Mae Paner is just the body who’s inhabited when Juana wants to get out there.
How did Juana Change even come about?
In 2008, when Jun Lozada came out as a whistleblower of the NBN-ZTE deal, I had been inactive in the political scene. But that itch to do something for country was calling me. I knew at that point, I had to do something, so I started to gather my friends. I said, “Hey, come on, let’s come together. Let’s do something. We have time, talent, there’s the social media now. We can upload videos on YouTube. I can direct. I can be an actor, so let’s do it.” And my friends, who are also like me, lovers of country, readily said yes. That’s how the movement started.
Isn’t it tricky you’re directing and acting at the same time?
It’s actually kind of cool in a way. We don’t have budgets, and because I’m a director, it’s very easy for us to come up with videos. While I’m the talent, I can also direct. That came in handy for the advocacy.
How many are you in the team?
Strictly, tatlo lang kami. Whenever there’s an issue, we get together. They come to my house for dinner, and then we talk. That’s how we start. And then we produce the video. Rody Vera is one of the writers. He’s a very prolific writer, a multi-Palanca awardee. In fact, two if his pieces are Un Certain Regard entries to the Cannes film festival. He wrote Death March for Adolf Alix and Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan for Lav Diaz. The other writer is Raymond Lee. He’s the brains behind Zombadings. He wrote it and produced it, Maximo Oliveros, and a lot of other movies.
How is it working with them on a regular basis?
I’m so lucky to be around very good artists. Kasi it’s not easy to pull off political satire. Hindi naman madaling magpatawa, tapos very edgy pa ang topic mo, tapos it’s also very truthful because it’s about the national situation. Kung hindi magaling ang mga writers ko, siguro hindi ako magkakaroon ng ganoong lakas ng loob na mag-produce ng videos. Yung soul talaga ng Juana Change advocacy ay yung content niya.
Why make a full-length film this time?
There are still a lot of apathetic Filipinos. They don’t care for the news. They don’t care for the country as much. But they love watching telenovelas. They prefer to watch film festival movies. We wanted to broaden the audience of the advocacy. If we make a movie, we’ll be talking to these people.
What’s the film about?
Juana is part of an indigenous people’s community. And because of mining and tourism, her community was threatened. So her parents told her, “Hey, you’d better study, because if you don’t, people will just get our land and we will have nowhere to live.” Juana didn’t really want to study, but she was forced to. And when she got to Manila, ayan na, napariwara. Before she knew it, she was in debt. Her last recourse was to become a prostitute and she began to enter into the doors of power.
What got you into performing?
Actually PETA really got me into performance. When I entered PETA in 1983, I became really active in political theater. Kasi during that time, it was the Marcos years eh. And that was when I actually started my love for country. We were joining rallies. And I was doing political theater. Then I understood, ah, ito pala ‘yon. Because it was also at that time people were trying to overthrow Marcos.
That was a dangerous time.
Actually, I was incarcerated in 1984 with Lino Brocka and Ben Cervantes when I joined the jeepney transport strike.
What were you doing before acting?
Right after college, I really went into theater. Then I was in advertising. I was an assistant director. I was production assistant before that. I was production manager, then I became a director, and then, that’s it.
Do you consider advertising your sideline?
Actually ito dapat yung sideline ko, pero ito yung naging buhay ko.
Would you ever consider bringing Juana to TV? It’s been a while since we had a political satire like Abangan Ang Susunod na Kabanata.
We’ve always wanted to have Juana Change on television, pero parang the stations are not ready kasi masyado kaming matapang. We were almost on air a few times, and then matatanggal.
The elections are done now. If you were a senator, what would be that one thing you’d lobby for?
Freedom of information. I think it should be made into law. A lot of things continue to happen, because people don’t have access to information. If we had, we’d know how much the government earns, what transactions and spending are done, and where our money is going.
Read more of the interview on Philippine Star Supreme.
Juana C. The Movie opens in cinemas on May 29.