Palawan media attend a press conference for Inspire Studios' first film, out in theaters nationwide this June 5.

With the film production company’s first movie, 1521: The Quest for Love & Freedom, coming out on June 5, Inspire Studios CEO Francis Lara Ho announced four more film projects the company is working on, all set within local Philippine wars, including the stories of the 11 American POWs who survived the burning at Plaza Cuartel.

Ho revealed during the Palawan leg of 1521’s press conference that the studio was on track with the other projects, with the script for one already finished this year.

Aside from the soldiers of Plaza Cuartel, Ho also wants to spotlight the Filipina freedom fighters who became comfort women to the Japanese during World War II, a story about the Jewish people who took refuge in the country during the same war, and the rescue of those involved in the kidnapping at Dos Palmas in 2001.

Ho recalled that Inspire Studios came from his own desire to teach his children about Philippine heroes. His wife, a Palaweña, told him about the deaths of the soldiers in Plaza Cuartel as one of the main historical events in her home province.

“I saw the powerful story there. But I thought, no one is making a movie about it. Do you know that the story of Plaza Cuartel is not just about it burning down and people dying? (…) Two years ago, I brought the children of the [foreign] soldiers here, and they told me, ‘You know Francis, if it weren’t for the Filipinos, we wouldn’t be in this world’,” he said.

Ho clarified that although the film would take some creative license, such as the addition of an interracial love story in 1521, it would also focus on the lives of the real soldiers involved in the war.

He said that the script was mostly based on a biography penned by one of the surviving American soldiers, whose descendants he took to visit sites such as Plaza Cuartel and Iwahig.

“One of the 11 survivors had appendicitis. He was taken to Iwahig. Actually, we visited the operating room where it happened. (…) I brought his children there, and they said, ‘Oh, that’s where our dad laid down.’ There was no anesthesia during the Japanese occupation,” he said.

“I cannot announce the date yet but I have a miniseries I’m working on (…) feature the Tabon Cave, the Estrella falls, and other areas. It’s a 10-episode miniseries,” he said.

Educating the youth
Ho mentioned collaborating with the Department of Education (DepEd) to promote more films promoting Philippine history to the youth.

However, he said that DepEd could only support and not endorse the films, as there would be concerns form parents about students possibly incurring more fees by watching promoted movies.

The film also involved local Palaweños who served as extras during the film. Lara Ho expressed his desire to feature more local talents in the future, as he planned to put up the base of Studios in Palawan in the near future.

“I also offered this to sir [Ramon] Docto. I said, if you’re willing to start a film course at PSU. He said he’ll consider it, but of course, there’s bureaucracy. You know, so many writers approach me to produce their films. I teach them how to fund their projects; that’s my expertise,” he added.