He rises from mere production staff to top management at ABS-CBN
Before the lockdown last year, one of my last dinner dates was with directors Jose Javier Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Roni Bertubin, Louie Ignacio, and Cirilo “Ruel” Bayani. They all came from different television networks and film production companies but it was a night full of laughter, good food, and so much fun gossiping! We were free—without masks and the IATF protocols were not yet conceived that time.
Fast forward to 2021, these directors have adapted to the new normal of production. Ruel recently got in touch with us to share his promotion as the new ABS-CBN head for international production and co-production. He will oversee the development, production, and distribution of international projects across all platforms.
Ruel was a student of the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya at Ateneo de Manila University who brought the class to the taping of Sic O’Clock News over at Broadcast City. “I could not sleep that night,” he recalls. “I just knew TV was something I needed to do as well.”
He worked with another renowned female director, Laurice Guillen, who got him as a last minute replacement for a script continuity position. “She was just amazing to watch every day on the set directing Vilma, Boyet, Richard, Sharon, Gabby,” says the Budoy TV director.
To Ruel, his beloved mentor Ishmael Bernal was his greatest influence. “I did his last two movies and this was when my life totally changed,” he muses. “He was so funny, so brilliant, always larger than life.” The National Artist taught Ruel everything from food, travel, books, arts, culture, storytelling, and directing.
“He always reminded me to fight for the people and prepare myself to be an industry leader someday,” reveals the ambassador for the Philippines in the Asian Academy Creative Awards (AAA). “He even lectured on how to navigate love and complicated relationships.”
With the sudden demise of his mentor and to fight grief, Ruel flew to Los Angeles to study a short course at the University of Southern California. When he came back, he was given his first Maalaala Mo Kaya TV directorial job starring Gloria Romero and Jericho Rosales. The rest is now history with the man behind the blockbuster movie hits Kasal, One More Try and No Other Woman.
In 2019, Ruel spearheaded the co-production of the action series Almost Paradise with Electric Entertainment in Cebu City. Working with Godzilla and Independence Day producer Dean Devlin was Hollywood 101 for him. “I cannot think of a better way for us to learn, unlearn, and relearn from their unique workflow and expertise in every aspect of TV production,” says the 1997 MMFF Best Screenplay winner for Babae. “The great lessons of this partnership will be the very foundation of our international division, so we have Dean and Almost Paradise to thank for that.”
The global pandemic, the loss of the broadcast franchise, the digital pivot of ABS-CBN presented opportunities for growth, diversification, and future collaborations with foreign content creators. “We have strengthened the distribution and marketing of our content through our owned and partner platforms,” he says. “We have also redefined online engagement and platform interactivity in the country.”
Although he misses directing, Ruel remains optimistic that with his new designation, his company will continue to create breakthroughs in the international entertainment scene. “I’ve been multi-tasking for the last 30 years writing, directing, producing so adjusting to new challenges and embracing change have been my default mode.”
He has found his purpose in uplifting the Filipino spirit. “All my industry mentors taught me to always give back, to help, to serve, to never compromise cherished values, to lead with humility and compassion, and to always champion the potential of the Filipino,” he concludes.