Coco Martin and Nora Aunor. Image Credit:

Coco Martin, the former face of Philippine independent films who has transitioned into one of the most recognisable faces in Philippine television and mainstream cinema, will share the big screen for the first time with award-winning actress Nora Aunor in the indie film Padre de Familia, out in the UAE now.

The film is also the first indie movie to be screened by TFC@theMovies in international mainstream cinema halls.

Padre de Familia is about the hardships of living in a foreign country away from one’s family, and a tale of love and forgiveness. It tells the story of Noel (Martin), an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Malaysia, who becomes the primary breadwinner after his father, Ben (Joel Torre), abandons his responsibility as head of the family.

Before its international screening, Martin had a video conference on Wednesday with members of the press in Dubai and Europe. “I’m so excited that the movie will be screened internationally and Filipinos abroad can watch it,” said Martin. “I really wanted to do a movie that many people can relate [to]. When they will watch the movie, they can feel that they are the characters in the movie.”

The award-winning 34-year-old actor became famous for starring in independent films, but before his success in the entertainment industry, Martin, born Rodel Nacianceno, once lived the life of a typical OFW. Although he had acted in a few indie films, Martin took up work in Canada, believing, like many other poor Filipinos, that working abroad was the passport to a bright and secure future for his family. He took odd jobs including working as a janitor to make ends meet.

“I worked in indie films before I went abroad. That time, it was not really my priority to act. All I wanted was just to earn a living for my family,” said Martin.

“My experience working abroad serves as my motivation and inspiration to do the movie. With this movie I can say that the character is really me. When I watched the movie, it felt like I’m watching myself.

“When the director [Adolf Alix Jr.] asked me to do a film with Ate Guy [Aunor], I told him that I want to do a film that can touch people’s lives since I’ll be working with Ate Guy.”

Some industry observers have called Martin the male version of Aunor. They both had humble beginnings, are superb actors and have expressive eyes.

Martin admits it has been one of his dreams to do a project with Aunor. “I really want to work with Ate Guy. And I admit that I did the movie because I really wanted to do a movie with her.”

He adds: “After working with her, [I thought] I was never wrong with my decision because I learned a lot from her. We really had a great bonding while doing the film — we’re like mother and son.”

Martin is also the producer of the movie, and it was his decision to bring the film closer to OFWs. “I really wanted to have it screened first abroad because I want to have this as a gift to Filipinos who are working abroad. I want to share and show my love to them. Through this movie, I want to tell the story the life of the Filipinos abroad. How we dream to give our families a better life and future. I want the movie to serve as an inspiration.”

He also draws inspiration from his own experience. “I came from a broken family. It was my grandmother who raised me and guided me. It is so difficult if nobody in the family will guide you. I know that if my compatriots will watch the movie they will get inspired to continue to fight for their families and achieve their dreams.”

He adds: “I also want to let the people in the Philippines who have families working abroad to see that life abroad is never easy. When I was working abroad there was a time when I almost gave up because of my problem with my working visa in Canada. I remember that I collected bottles of mineral water and sold them to earn extra money.”

If he hadn’t succeeded in the show business industry, would he have gone back working abroad?

“Yes. I’d be working abroad and [continuing] to fight for my dreams and for my family.”