How Ely Buendia and The Itchyworms Washed Ashore: Making the 'Lutang' Video

Francis Reyes
Director Audry Dionisio and Ely Buendia at the "Lutang" music video launch party.

Imagine being at the beach -- no, not Boracay -- somewhere less inhabited and more peaceful.

You're walking along the shore and suddenly, The Itchyworms and Ely Buendia wash up in tattered suits. You have no idea how or why they ended up there. They just are.

That pretty much sets the table for the music video for "Lutang," Buendia's second collaboration with the Itchyworms, following last year's "Pariwara."

Directed by Audry Dionisio, the video was inspired by the 2000 film Cast Away, which Dionisio had never seen prior to the making of the video.

"Lutang means 'to float' or you're staring off into space, right? So we kinda took it literally," she shares. "We went for the water concept. It just so happened that Roy Angara, who is the owner of Aliya Surf Camp in Baler, offered his place. He would take us around and use that as a venue for any music video, not this one yet, in particular."

It was an idea Dionisio kept in her back pocket until Buendia and the Itchyworms decided to shoot a video for "Lutang."

"It just so happened I had watched Cast Away, and I figured these guys are funny, let's tap that and make Cast Away funny," she explains.

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Dionisio -- who previously directed the music video for Apartel's "Sala Sa Init" alongside Apartel drummer Pat Sarabia -- explains: "[The music video] was so dark, so we chose a funny concept because we were like, ‘We don't want to be known as those people who created really twisted videos, so let's go for something light.' And then I brought the Cast Away thing."

With an idea for the destination music video in place, you'd expect huge production meetings to take place for discussions about the storyboard and the script. That wasn't exactly the case for Dionisio and her team.

Itchyworms lead guitarist Chino Singson shares that everything mostly came from Dionisio and Sarabia, and the whole shoot was coordinated via Facebook Messenger. In a world where a thesis meeting could take place on the Messenger app, this shouldn't come across as surprising.

While the pre-production stage was something the team easily put together online, getting everyone to Baler at the same time was more challenging. Singson added that they had to work around the schedules of the Itchyworms, Apartel, the production crew, and the individual schedules of Buendia and Itchyworms frontman Jugs Jugueta.

Dionisio explained that while the logistics of it all was challenging, everyone had fun throughout the two-day shoot. "It was light, and it seemed like a free vacation," she shares.

The shoot itself wasn't fun and games, especially when you consider the fact that the musicians and the crew all had to hike up and down a mountain to get to the location, plus they had no roof nor tent to use as a shade in between takes.

"[The location] was 30 minutes from where we came," Jugueta tells Billboard Philippines. "It's not far, but it was very hot. Look, I got really dark!"

"There really wasn't anything there," adds bassist Kelvin Yu. "We were all just under the sun, so we all got pretty dark afterward."

Singson compared the experience to shooting the music video for "Pariwara," which they shot in broad daylight in their suits at Cubao Expo: "Imagine wearing slacks, and then a polo under a coat, and just stay under the sun all day," he describes. "It's pretty hot. We had breaks in between, though. We've been in longer and more uncomfortable shoots before. So recall the 'Pariwara' video: We were in full suits, and we were under the sun, shooting at Cubao X. But for this one, it was air cool because our clothes were tattered, so it was at least a bit more comfortable."

Drummer Jazz Nicolas told Billboard Philippines how natural it felt for them to project the castaway vibe because it was how they genuinely felt during the shoot: "We really felt like castaways, because it was so hot. The location was far, too. So that tired and sweaty look, that was genuine!"

But he adds that it was all worth it because of how much fun they all had. "It was a dream come true because we were at the beach with Ely and the whole band, so it was fun," he says.

Jugueta adds that the location was so appropriate for the shoot and just looked great for the video. "Just take a picture, no filter needed, really," he shares. "It looks good, doesn't it? It's just getting there is so hard."

Even though the location itself didn't need a filter, there was some color grading applied in the editing to achieve the look and feel that Dionisio and Sarabia wanted -- something Ely Buendia himself worked on while taking on most of the editing duties.

The Pinoy rock icon told Billboard Philippines that he loves editing and that it is one of his favorite parts of the process of making videos.

"I get to really put my stamp on the project," Buendia says. "Audry and I worked on it, and I've also been reading up on [editing]. Actually, it was a training ground for me. I've never tried color grading before and I wanted to do it, so it's the first time I've tried it."

He adds that after "Lutang," this won't be the last time he gets involved with the editing side of a music video.

Buendia and the Itchyworms surprised us all last year when they came together for "Pariwara," and one year later, they've launched their second music video together for "Lutang."

"We thought that 'Pariwara' would be the first and the last collaboration," Jugueta says. "And then this happened. We didn't expect it to happen, but it happened."

While the video itself isn't something one should overthink, there is a little hidden bonus in its director's cut. Dionisio tipped off Billboard Philippines about the Marvel-like post-credits scene featuring a cartoony arrangement of the song, which Nicolas composed while he was in New York earlier this year.

Not bad for a video that was essentially put together via Facebook Messenger.