(STAR) By Edith Regalado – What can $260 buy? Lots of lechon (roast pig) and lots of beer.

Hollywood star Josh Hartnett wanted to know what constituted a typical Filipino feast. When told that lechon and the local beer were enough, he took out 13 pieces of $20 bills from his pocket and threw an impromptu party for the local and foreign production crew of his new film as well as the Philippine Army security detail assigned to him on his last night here.

Hartnett, who went on location shooting at a gold-rush site on Mt. Diwalwal for the $18-million detective thriller “I Come with the Rain,” gave the feast as a way of thanking Filipinos for their hospitality.

Hartnett egged Bryan Catoera, owner-driver of the black Isuzu Trooper used by the actor throughout his six-day stay here, to get the party started, as shooting for the film was packing up Tuesday night.

“I told him lechon and San Miguel beer and he immediately got from his pocket 13 pieces of $20 bills to be used to buy two lechon at P4,000 each and five cases of San Miguel,” Catoera told The STAR shortly before the small get-together started Tuesday night at the dining hall of the Pink House Hotel where Hartnett and the rest of the production crew of Central Films Productions were billeted.

With beer in hand, Hartnett gamely made the first cut on the roasted pigs. Hartnett then went around, handing bottles of beer to everyone.

Hartnett, who admitted giving up being vegetarian for some time already, said spending $260 for the lechon and beer was nothing compared to the hospitality and kindness of the Filipinos he interacted with while filming at the mining site.

“You simply can’t help but love these people around here. It’s great that they like me, too,” Hartnett told The STAR.

Hartnett, who plays Kline, a retired Los Angeles policeman who reaches Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley in search of an heir with healing powers, only had praises for Filipinos.

“Everybody here is so nice. I do not have a problem with anybody. I am having a wonderful time. We have been working a lot and no time to hang out and the people here are so beautiful and so nice,” Hartnett added, as he was partying and hugging everyone around, until he called it a night at 11 p.m.

Hartnett, who arrived last Thursday, said he hopes to spend “a little bit more time to travel around” before flying to Hong Kong to continue with the filming.

‘Easy to handle’

Army 1st Lt. Brian Bagaipo, commander of the Charlie Company of the 28th Infantry Battalion tasked to secure Hartnett and the film crew, said the actor was “very easy to handle.”

“He has no qualms, no star-complex, no demands, or anything,” Bagaipo said.

He said the same thing about Tran. “The director and the other stars were all so nice to us. They never demanded anything from us other than what we can provide for security.”

Bagaipo said Hartnett would even joke at times about the tight security component that moved with him wherever he went.

“Do I really need this kind of security?” Hartnett would ask, as he preferred to walk around the mining village during his free time and mingle with the children whom he also handed out money to.

Hartnett was reported to also have the habit of spending the early hours of the morning sitting on a chair just outside the store on the ground floor of the 15-room Pink House Hotel, just watching the villagers go by and saying hello to them.

No fear

Hartnett said he did not have second thoughts about coming to the Philippines, especially in Mt. Diwalwal, considered to be a stronghold of communist insurgents.

“I had no hesitations coming here. I never heard negative reports about the Philippines,” Hartnett said, adding, “Why? Is there any problem here? I do not see any problem around.”

Multi-awarded director Tran Anh Hung, who wrote the screenplay and directs “I Come with the Rain,” told The STAR security at Mt. Diwalwal was never an issue when he strongly insisted that it would be one of the locations for the shooting of the film set for release next year.

Mt. Diwalwal, where the country’s largest deposits of gold ore could be found, is close to 200 kilometers away from Davao City and could only be reached by 4x4-powered vehicles or by motorcycles.

“I’ve watched a documentary of Mt. Diwalwal 15 years ago in Paris. And from then on, I always said I would do it in Mt. Diwalwal because the place is amazing,” Tran said.

Catoera, meanwhile, is keeping the $20 bills that Hartnett gave him to buy lechon and beer as “souvenir.”

He said Hartnett was so down-to-earth and “ate almost anything.”

“He loves our fruits. He and director Tran ate a lot of bananas on the set. He was also fond of our rambutan and durian,” he added.

Hartnett stayed at the P500 per night VIP Room 7 of the Pink House Hotel that did not have any air conditioner. He said his experience in the Philippines, especially at Mt. Diwalwal, gave him enough reason to come back.

“I am sure, sometime in the future, I’ll be back,” he told The STAR. – Edith Regalado

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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