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Festivals Interviews

Lumpia, man!: Patricio Ginelsa, Rey Cuerdo, and Earl Baylon on ‘Lumpia With a Vengeance’

Lumpia With a Vengeance (2021), directed by Patricio Ginelsa.

What do you get when you take one of the most beloved Filipino finger foods and turn it into a weapon of destruction? In the world of Lumpia With a Vengeance, lumpia isn’t just a delicious snack — it’s also the weapon of choice for our silent, Batman-like hero Lumpia Man. 

As the sequel to 2003’s low-budget cult film Lumpia, Lumpia With a Vengeance brings all of the cheesy schlock of a great B-film to the big screen once again: this time with the added glamour of modern-day special effects. There’s a lot to love about Lumpia With a Vengeance, whether that’s in the instantly quotable one-liners, the cheeky attitude towards superhero stories, or even its bizarro world logic. It’s a film that feels like it was concocted by comic book fans for comic book fans — and it’s one that lets you in on the joke with a wink. But whether you’re a foodie, a Marvel fanboy/fangirl, or just someone looking for a fun time, Lumpia With a Vengeance is a movie that certainly has something for everyone.

Lumpia With a Vengeance is currently on a hot streak of film festival runs — first winning the coveted Audience Award in last year’s Hawaiian International Film Festival, then selling out their LAAPFF screening within minutes… with their New York screening selling out just as quickly.

As Rey Cuerdo so enthusiastically states during our interview, “Everybody loves that lumpia, man!” 

We talked to director Patricio Ginelsa, producer Rey Cuerdo, and actor/associate producer Earl Baylon at this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival to get the inside scoop on all things Lumpia.

BTS on the set of Lumpia With a Vengeance.

Lumpia With a Vengeance is the sequel to the 2003 film, Lumpia. What was it like to revisit this series and its characters after all of these years?

Patricio Ginelsa: It was scary because it was an experiment. You’re inviting non-professional actors — my friends, basically — and they were scared at the fact that they were going to come back and reprise a role when they’re not acting, and so I had to make sure to figure out who was going to come back. The other part of it was fun. Once we all got on set with professional actors, they were fanboying/fangirling when the original cast came onboard! I don’t know if you felt that way Earl, when you saw Mon Mon (Francis Custodio) come to life…

Earl Baylon: When we had both him and Mark [Muñoz] in the car at the same time, I was like, “I don’t know what’s going on right now! Are we crossing universes?”

PG: The one scene that really reflected the throwback to the original film was when Danny Trejo showed up on set. Out of all the actors that came back from my neighborhood friends, there was only one who was able to act opposite him and it was Edward [Baon], who plays Tyrone. When we shot that scene, I was geeking out because here we are: we were just a bunch of Filipino kids in a Daly City neighborhood just making movies together for fun, and now the sandbox has gotten a little bigger and Danny Trejo, this Hollywood icon, [was here]. [Edward] had the nerve to call him an “old man,” an improv line! For once in his life he was thinking, “I’m going to be an actor and improv.” There was a little bit of fear when he said that, you could notice Ed kind of bounce back but Danny, being the professional, played with it. And I kept that in the movie, which was amazing.

EB: In general, it was amazing to see the original cast, because it’s a different process! Pat tells the story where sometimes back in the day he would give line readings and feed [the actors] line by line. [To Pat] You forced them to memorize their scripts this time!

PG: I would act for them sometimes and deliver their lines!

Director Patricio Ginelsa replays a take for Danny Trejo (Reyes) in Lumpia With a Vengeance.

EB: It was great seeing Francis [Mon Mon] coping or adjusting to that. I wasn’t there for these days on set, but Tyrone [would] forget his lines. He has some long monologues.

PG: If you want an Easter egg, in the movie see if you can find Edward’s script that he laid somewhere in the scene. There were shots where the script was just laying there!

Rey Cuerdo: And I wasn’t there for the first Lumpia, but I was probably one of the biggest fans. I love the first Lumpia, which is why when Patricio gave me an opportunity to be part of With a Vengeance, the rest is history.

PG: And that’s the cool thing. There’s a lot of movies that [Rey] did, he did Ulam, Yellow Rose and to meet Rey and see the nerd in him, it was really cool. He felt like the perfect addition to our team. We did this comic book together for our backers and Rey wrote one of the stories! Check out the Tyrone story!

Lumpia With a Vengeance was actually backed by a pretty extensive Kickstarter campaign. What was it like funding your film through those means — and knowing that you had the support of a whole community behind you?

PG: Myself and A.J. Calomay, my producer partner in crime, we’ve been doing music videos for two decades at that point. We’ve been very blessed to be a part of a lot of music video projects that involve the Filipino American community. When it came down to make a real feature film and to do our first Kickstarter, we decided on Lumpia because it already had some kind of cult following and we were using the Kickstarter as a way, at that time in 2013, whether or not there was still an appetite (literally) for a Filipino American movie. We wanted to know, after The Debut, were there still people out there who wanted to see a Filipino American movie? We used Lumpia to test it out.

Kuya (Mark Muñoz) in Lumpia With a Vengeance.

On the last day, we were still down by $30,000. People forget that we were down by so much on our last night, and for some reason on the final night of our Kickstarter — to this day I still can’t explain what happened — it went viral. I remember that day, every 10 minutes there was a backer. Ten dollars, then five dollars. These were small donations coming in, and once you find out that these were people who you didn’t even know or recognize… when we literally had an hour left, we hit our goal.

This was before Twitch and everything, but we were able to stream when we actually hit that goal. And, after the realization that we finally hit our goal, we came to the realization that, crap, we now had to make a movie! But there’s no greater motivation than to have an audience and backers waiting for you to finish this film, and maybe that’s the reason why it took so long. We didn’t want to make a movie just for the sake of just finishing it and fulfilling the rewards. We wanted to make a movie that would make our backers proud and just worthy of the support they gave us. Making movies is hard enough already, but the fact that we knew there was an audience…. when you think about it, some movies have the opposite problem. Some movies, especially independent films, they get their funding but they struggle to find that audience. For us, it’s kind of the opposite. We never had the money, but we had the audience waiting for us to finish it! That was a blessing that we always held on to.

Director Patricio Ginelsa directs childhood friend Francis Custodio (Mon Mon) in Lumpia With a Vengeance. Photo by J.J. Casas.

One of the best parts of Lumpia With a Vengeance is the tongue-in-cheek, cheesy dialogue. Some of my favorites are, “Let’s keep in mind that sticking food in someone’s mouth is not against the law,” and when the crowd starts chants, “Pee on him!” before someone steps in and says, “This campaign is not about that!” 

What is your favorite piece of dialogue or one-liner from the film?

EB: Mine is Rachel (April Absynth)’s line, when she’s at the table. She goes, “I’m sure that it allows the pisser to piss on the pissee!” And then the mom starts talking about getting stung by a bee. That exchange! And it ends with Costancio (Dennis Custodio) going, “That is actually a myth!” It captures a little nugget of the Filipino dinner table, and it’s so perfect! It’s the parents trying to sell you on something that they heard from a friend, and it’s our generation where they’re like, “Nah, that’s not exactly right.”

RC: I think the one that really struck me, which I think ended up on the trailer is, “Nobody’s going to get that, this is too Filipino!” Because I think that’s what it’s really about, this is a Filipino movie! Unabashedly Filipino and we are damn proud of this movie.

PG: It’s hard for me because I have no favorite. I wrote it with our writing team, but I always think about the lines that we took out because it was too much. It was hard because I had to tap into my 15 year old self again and try to come up with the corniness of it all. It was fun to go back there.

My favorite line is still Tyrone in the truck, where he goes, “I am your father!” The back and forth between Rachel and Tyrone… and I have to give it up to Joey Guila. He helped me come up with more jokes. Joey’s jokes can get kind of R-rated sometimes, but some of his jokes did make it in. I think that’s one of them.

Kuya (Mark Muñoz), Rachel (April Absynth) and George (Earl Baylon) in Lumpia With a Vengeance.

EB: I remember when he did a promo for us as Mayor Reynaldo, and he was talking about lumpia… and he looked down at his crotch! Classic Joey.

Aside from lumpia, there are a number of other foods that are thrown in the film with pinpoint accuracy, like lumpia, pancit, bread and dough. If you could choose a food item to throw, what would your food-throwing power of choice be?

PG: Does it have to be throwing? I think I’ve already thrown everything that I can!

EB: An entire durian!

PG: I just did a video where they dynamite lumpia. It was with chili pepper — that would destroy me! Ultimate weapon!

Final question — will we be seeing more of Fogtown in the future? I’m already looking forward to the next installment in the Lumpia series!

PG: Right now we’re doing a final comic book, and we just got approved for our Comic Con panel for Lumpia! I already have an idea for Lumpia III but I’m keeping it to myself because we’ll see!

EB: We literally started talking about it on the way down!

PG: I haven’t even told Darion (Detective Bayani) this but he plays a bigger part in it. The difference between the original Lumpia and Lumpia With a Vengeance — that gap has to be even moreso between part two and part three! It may take another five to seven years… we’re talking Avengers Endgame. It’s exciting when the community loves it — they just funded our issue three last night, so we’re going to keep doing it if they’re there. It seems like the appetite is there, and that’s what we’re so proud of.

This interview was conducted in-person by Li-Wei Chu at the 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on September 25, 2021.

Relevant links: IMDb | Instagram


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