IF Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa (2015) became a cult favorite because of its “rawness” as described by the film’s director, its sequel — which comes four years after the first — is anything but as Nestor Abrogena wanted to make Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon, which opens in cinemas on May 8, something more than its predecessor.

“While staying true to Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa, we had to be conscious about how structured it is because the first one is really raw… it should be a total opposite of Ang Kwento, a total irony of the first so even the visual language [is different],” Mr. Abrogena told the media during a press conference on April 29 at Kandle Café in Quezon City.

Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon follows the lives of Sam (played by Nicco Manalo), an aspiring filmmaker, and writer Isa (Emmanuelle Vera) five years after the end of Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa.

It also introduces new characters, Anna (Anna Luna), one of Sam’s co-teachers and also his girlfriend, and Frank (Alex Medina), Isa’s childhood friend and boyfriend.

Five years after Isa left for the United States, she returns with Frank to settle down in the Philippines and then meets Sam again. Isa and Sam try to be friends despite their interrupted romance five years ago, but in the process they have to deal with pain and uncertainty as they come to terms with their feelings for each other and everyone around them.

Mr. Abrogena noted that the sequel, which is produced by TBA Studios, is meant to show everything the first film wasn’t able to do as Kwento was initially supposed to be a thesis film which then became an entry to the 2015 World Premieres Film Festival.

The film, after its stint at the festival, made its way to the microcinema of TBA Studios, Cinema ’76, where it ran for multiple weeks with mostly sold-out screenings.

“Unbelievably, it started slow, but more and more people came. The budget for the film was P800,000 because it was a UP thesis film. It played for almost nine weeks with us… there were people who keep coming back to watch it three times, even four,” Vincent “Ting” Nebrida, co-executive producer of the studio, said during the press conference.

He added that during those nine weeks, the film managed to earn P2 million in a 60-seat cinema.

It was then that the studio asked Mr. Abrogena to do a sequel, something he admitted he wasn’t keen to do at first.

“To be honest, I don’t really believe in sequels… I have watched a few sequels of films from other countries [and it doesn’t work]. So I’m really nervous now because I’m doing a sequel… it became a conscious effort to make the film more than what it could have been done five years ago,” he said.

He explained that he spent much time developing the new characters — Anna and Frank — before going back to his main characters. He also consulted with his cast whom he claims know so much about the characters so they could create a story as true to the original as possible.

“We’re very proud of this film,” Eduardo A. Rocha, executive producer, said during his opening message.

“It’s so stunningly shot, you could feel it,” he added.

And how does a self-avowed non-believer of sequels feel about his own sequel? “Game,” Mr. Abrogena said before adding, “I can honestly say — and I can breathe easily now — that it’s more than Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa.”

Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon will screen in cinemas nationwide starting May 8. — Zsarlene B. Chua