TELEVISION has always been a staple in most Filipino’s household what with entertaining programs that take our minds away from the drudgery of routine living. But of course, no great story can exist without a greater storyteller behind it.

This may be an understatement to describe TV director and playwright Rodolfo “Jun” Lana Jr., who has tucked numerous Palanca awards under his belt even before he started writing for television.

A creative consultant of GMA Network, Lana is the hand behind internationally acclaimed films such as Sa Pusod ng Dagat, Muro Ami and Jose Rizal among many others. He has also directed and written several television shows such as Obra and La Lola, which have shown their depth and humor.
“I am a storyteller. It’s just a matter of putting it all on screen,” says Lana.

‘Youngest hall-of-famer’

Even at an early age, Lana had already been making waves in the world writing. But he knew that talent alone couldn’t get him through so he had it nurtured by joining writing workshops in high school, which gave him the opportunity to learn under Palanca hall of famer Rene Villanueva.

 “He was the one who diligently mentored me in my writing. He also took me into his group, the Telon Playwright Center,” says Lana.

At the young age of 17, Lana represented the Philippines at the 1991 International Festival of Young Playwrights in Melbourne, Australia. The financial problems of his family only galvanized Lana to feel the need to earn to support his siblings’ education and fulfill his responsibility. And he just knew that his passion for writing could do just that.

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“I couldn’t be selfish and just write for myself. I needed to make a career out of writing,” says Lana.
Thus, he tried his luck in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1995 to find “a platform for me to get noticed.”

And get noticed he did, after winning four awards for three consecutive years. In 1996, his screenplay Sa Pusod ng Dagat (formerly Mga Bangka sa Tag-araw) was adopted into film by director Marilou Diaz Abaya which eventually won “Best Screenplay” in the 1998 Brussels Film Festival Award.

Lana won another award in 2006 for TV script Milagroso, which also earned him the moniker for being the youngest Palanca Hall of Fame honoree at age 37.

From there sprang a fruitful career in the entertainment industry with the help of film producer Lily Monteverde who sponsored Lana’s scholarship in an Australian film school for three months.

Writer’s muse

Lana’s tour-de-force was the acclaimed historical film Jose Rizal. He eventually delved into writing for television and directing TV programs. His works could go far from comedy and drama to horror but he says that he could only cater to wholesome themes fit for a spectrum of audience.

“You must keep in mind that you have to please an audience. For me, that’s the key to the success of the show,” says Lana.

It was in college where Lana started to dream big and began to take leaps of faith in making his dreams happen. The Communication Arts alumnus wrote plays for Artistang Artlets (AA), the theater guild of the Faculty of Arts and Letters and was a resident playwright for the Philippine Educational Theater Assocation (PETA).

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But just like every budding writer, Lana had his share of frustrations, too. He was in first year when he wrote a play about a pregnant prostitute for AA. But the play got stalled given the “conservative” nature of UST.

This, however, didn’t stop the young artist from carrying on. One of his works almost made it to the Rector’s Literary Award (RLA) of Ustetika with mentor Ophelia Dimalanta pitching Lana’s work to Rector Rolando Dela Rosa, O.P.

“She used to tell me, ‘You know Jun, I fought for you, I fought for you! You should win that rector’s award,’” recalls Lana. “I had issues then and I felt I couldn’t express myself as a writer.”

Nonetheless, Lana still reaped accolades for his works that eventually won the first RLA for katha on top of his “Tomasinong Kwentista ng Taon” and “Tomasinong Mandudula ng Taon,” citations, respectively.

After college, Lana joined an advertising company for a year and taught mass communication subjects in UST and in the University of the Philippines. But it was as if fate found him and realized that his passion was really to write stories. 

The nature of his job could sometimes be demanding but the storyteller kept in mind his priorities and learned the advantages of knowing one’s limit.

Time management has always been the key “[because] I want to have a life. I want to spend time with my family [and] friends,” he says.

He says he owes much of his success to values he learned as a student.

“Discipline is important regardless of what sort of a writer you are…You have to be smart and study your craft,” says Lana. 

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Having learned from some of the best writers in the country, Lana has undoubtedly captured the entertainment industry–and the Filipino psyche–with his captivating stories which seem to leap out of the television screen and into the hearts of viewers. Adrienne Jesse A. Maleficio

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