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'Lumpia' the movie and sequel 'Lumpia with a Vengeance' is unabashedly Fil-Am, but it's not just for Pinoys

Los Angeles — Whoever heard of using our popular egg roll — that's lumpia for you, me, and Cardi B — as a “weapon” against bullying?!

That is exactly what the original “Lumpia” movie did in 2003, and because of the warm reception it received — Variety magazine called it a movie that takes "low budget to new heights" — filmmaker Patricio Ginelsa decided to do a sequel. He calls it... “Lumpia with a Vengeance.”

In the sequel, the lumpia-armed hero — aka Silent Avenger/Kuya — reappears in Fogtown and teams up with high school student Rachel to prevent a mysterious crime syndicate from destroying their town and her parents’ dream wedding.

The sequel even has Danny Trejo — uh huh of Breaking Bad fame — to its billing!

We were able to talk to director-writer-producer Patricio Ginelsa as well as his lead actress April Absynth who portrays Rachel and the lead action star, Mark Munoz, a former UFC Fighter, who portrays Kuya.

Below are our interviews with the “Lumpia” gang whom we interviewed via email.

Patricio Ginelsa (Director, writer, producer)



You wrote, directed, edited, produced "Lumpia." Why did you decide to make a sequel and why did it take so long?

It didn't start out as one but “Lumpia 2” (now called “Lumpia with a Vengeance”) became a passion project, because our supporters greenlit the project through Kickstarter seven years ago.

Back in 2013, we wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original homemade movie and Kickstarter gave us an opportunity to see if there was any interest or demand.

I also wanted to test the temperature out there: Was there still an appetite for Filipino American movies? I was fortunate enough to see the phenomenon of “The Debut” nationwide when we toured and drove cross-country as an associate producer, and I wanted to feel that community excitement again!

It happened on our last day of Kickstarter. The drama and celebration of raising over $10,000 in the last three hours of Kickstarter, when we were down was like winning the Super Bowl in the final seconds.

What is the genesis of this project of using lumpia? It seems that it is being used as a weapon?

As teens, my younger brother Dar and I were fans of the movie “El Mariachi” by Robert Rodriquez. He joked we should do a Filipino version of that character and the best we could think of was a guy wearing a barong, who throws lumpia like a ninja star. I just took that idea and ran away with it.

It felt like the corniest and wackiest idea ever, a concept perfect to shoot a homemade action movie with my neighborhood friends that summer. At some point when we stopped shooting (never finished the movie that summer), I started thinking more about what I was trying to say with this movie.

“Lumpia” became more than just a B-movie in my mind. In the seven years it took to finish that original movie (between 1996 and 2003), I had graduated USC Film School, joined “The Debut” as a producer, and toured cross-country, meeting pockets of Filipinos all over the US.

I realized the power of representation, rewrote the end of “Lumpia,” finished shooting it, and premiered it in 2003.

With “Lumpia 2,” it just gave me more free rein to explore not only what lumpia means to our culture, but tap into my corny humor as a 16-year-old teenager. We use lumpia in ways you never thought you could use them in the new movie!



Where did you film the movie and what challenges did you encounter? 

“Lumpia with a Vengeance” was mostly shot in my hometown of Daly City, California and they welcomed us with open arms. The city mayor and councilmen all supported our project as well as my alma mater, Jefferson High School.

There were so many challenges. Aside from the financial ones typical of any independent film, the biggest challenge was the weather. We had no control of it. We shot in record heat for outdoor scenes that were supposed to take place in Fogtown!

Why did you decide to set the setting in a make-believe town called Fogtown?

I decided to do that in the first movie, as a nod to comic books. There's Metropolis or Gotham City to represent New York or Chicago. So if Daly City had a comic book equivalent, Fogtown felt like the right name—plus, there's so much thematically and visually you could do with that name.

In my movie, Fogtown represents any American city with a huge Filipino community. I've always included Fogtown references in all of my work including the Black Eyed Peas’ "Apl Song" music video, long before cinematic universes were in vogue.

Who are the original cast members who came back and who are the new ones?

I couldn't do the new movie without the "heart and soul" of “Lumpia,” which are the original leads Francis Custodio (Mon Mon) and Edward Baon (Tyrone). Most of them all came back and provided great nods and Easter eggs to the original movie.

The toughest decision I had to make was recast our original lead hero Carlos Baon (Kuya) with UFC Fighter Mark Muñoz. But without spoiling it, you will definitely see Carlos in a surprise pivotal role in the new movie.

April Absynth is our new lead playing the daughter of Mon Mon, Rachel. Katrina Dimaranan (Love Island) plays the new villain Jemini. And of course, we have the legendary Danny Trejo who plays Reyes.

What's awesome is that “Lumpia” started out with a bunch of neighborhood kids making movies for fun and our community has grown to include Hollywood actors now!


Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie
Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie

What made you decide to invite Danny Trejo as Reyes? Did you have a hard time convincing him to join the cast?

It was always a dream to cast Danny Trejo as Reyes when I wrote it. Many folks say no and reject you in this industry, but you'll never get a yes if you don't even try.

Danny Trejo's casting is an example of what happens when you just try. He loved his part and read all about the history of our movie and the support we got, and he said yes. It was a big moment for us!

Talk about your leading lady April Absynth (Rachel). She also sang the theme song “Hungry for a Fight” with the No Rest Till Death Band. How did you discover her? What made you cast her?

April was a discovery during our Bay Area auditions. She nailed the reading and tone of the movie right then and there. Once she was cast, the movie became clearer to me and her performance helped me rethink and rewrite her arc during the last act.

Once you see the movie, you will see just how much April is able to carry the movie with ease. When I told her I had trouble trying to find a retro song for this cue, she stepped in and created a song with her partner Sam Wheelwright of No Rest Till Death. I'm just in awe of her talent!

Talk about your lead actor Mark Muñoz who is a former UFC fighter and how did you convince him to join the cast? How did you meet him? Did he have to audition?

Ironically (or maybe it was destiny), I met Mark and his sister Rheena Muñoz the weekend after our Kickstarter ended.

He was making the rounds around the community promoting his upcoming UFC fight and I just appreciated his warmth and genuine personality. Years later, I saw his Octogon speech in Manila after his final fight and I was moved by it.

I just started to see our “Lumpia” hero Kuya speaking through him, even though the actual character doesn't speak. He spoke against bullying and he also had a sense of humor. There was no need to audition because that was his audition.

I am familiar with some of the cast members like the Basco brothers — Darion and Derek — as well as Abe Pagtama and Fe delos Reyes. I also know your producer Rey Cuerdo. Can you talk about them and how it was like working with them? How did you meet them?

I've known the Basco family, Abe, and Fe since “The Debut.” Darion and I have always talked about working on a project together.

With Abe Pagtama, it always feels like a must to include him in all my projects. He's already appeared in countless music videos I've directed including the Black Eyed Peas’ "The Apl Song".

I directed Fe's “Amerikana The Musical,” my first-ever stage project back in 2007. I've always known about Rey Cuerdo back when he did “Small Voices.” He and I became good friends just nerding out on movies and about my time working at Sony Pictures. I'm a fan of what they all do for our community.

And they joined “Lumpia 2” because they all believed in me. All of them continue to enable and challenge me to put out my best work. That's why our sets feel like one big family gathering and support group.

Due to the lockdown and the pandemic, most movies are not being shown in theaters but are being streamed online. How is your movie being affected by this pandemic and what are your future plans?

Our world premiere and film festival debut this past May was canceled. However, the positive outlook from this pandemic has been the extra time it's given us to polish and improve our movie.

Since it was initially funded and greenlit by them, our movie is built to be seen through live community screenings. Whatever the new normal will be with theatres, the fate of our movie ultimately lies on our unknown distributor, the film festivals that choose to screen our movie, and of course, the reception of our audience.


Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie
Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie

This movie seems like a product of the Filipino bayanihan spirit where everybody is pitching in to create something beautiful. Please comment on that.

I would agree. This movie is fueled by our community's desire to see more of themselves represented in movies. The studios would never greenlight a movie about a hero that throws spring rolls as a weapon.

“Lumpia with a Vengeance” is unabashedly Filipino-American; it doesn't mean it's just for Filipinos. But all of us willed this movie into existence. It takes a village right?

It's taken us seven years through ups and downs, through our full time jobs, through myself being a first-time father, but we wanted to make sure we made a movie that was worthy of all the support it garnered.

I can only hope others find the final product "beautiful.” But just witnessing the community rallying behind us to create this has already been a beautiful experience.

Any other future projects?

More than ever, this feature has given me confidence as a writer. I find myself dusting off old screenplays from my shelf and revisiting them. I have a biopic drama that passed the first round of a screenplay workshop which I hope to make soon. I also have a nerdtastic action series I'm ready to pitch to anyone who's willing to listen. And I won't ignore any cries for a third “Lumpia” sequel out there.... just sayin'!

April Absynth (Rachel)



How did you get involved with “Lumpia with a Vengeance” movie? Is this your first Filipino film?

I decided to start acting after a long time, thinking it was no longer in the cards for me. But a few months after diving back in, the casting notice for “Rachel” showed up in my inbox. I read the description and I remember thinking, “‘A Filipina American lead!? No way! How awesome!” I never see this in the Bay Area. It would be a real shame not to at least try being a part of something so culturally innovative and different.

It was still a long shot but they brought me in for an audition in San Francisco. And the moment I stepped in the room, I felt like I was with family. They went ahead and basically adopted me. I joke about it but it’s a genuine love I still have for them. It’s not all the time you get to work with people you continue missing after you’ve wrapped.

It wasn’t until working on the sequel that I learned about the first movie and how much the Fil-Am community loved it! I got myself the “Lumpia” movie DVD, watched it with my boyfriend, we instantly fell in love with it, and became fans ourselves!

It would have been really fun to be part of the first movie in 2003. But it’s also a unique experience getting to watch the first film and say, “Hey! I know her! Oh I know him!” throughout the entire movie, and know that on this side of the screen, I can call them friends.

I was familiar with Patricio’s work with “The Debut” but I didn’t know I would be working with him for “Lumpia.” My first day on the set was just to do a fitting, so I didn’t have a call sheet or know who to expect. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Patricio by Lawrence, our producer, that I found out we’d be working together.

I’m a huge fan of “The Debut” movie and Black Eyed Peas, I just couldn’t quite believe that my first feature film and first Filipino film would be working with Patricio, the creative Fil-Am community, and all of the many talented people he has made magic with over the years.


Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie
Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie

Please tell us more about yourself: your start in the entertainment industry here in the U.S., where you're based, have you been an actress in the Philippines, did you study acting?

I started working at 15 and a half years old as a singer and performer at Paramount’s Great America in Santa Clara, California. I worked there throughout high school and all through college in San Francisco State University, where I studied theater.

During and after college, I was always juggling at least two jobs between teaching, retail, bartending, admin, and performing. It wasn’t until I ultimately left my job at a record label in Oakland that I took the leap of faith to wholeheartedly pursue my dream of singing and acting.

I’m Bay Area born and raised, and feel blessed to live in Oakland where music, art, food, the people, the voices, the fighting spirit, and the culture fills my heart and soul.

It’s where my Tatang planted his roots in the US for our family, so there is a deep connection that grounds me here to watch his dreams for our family blossom.

I haven’t been an actress in the Philippines, but it would truly be an amazing experience to work with the beautiful creatives there. If all goes well, I hope to find my way to the Philippines!

You also sang the theme song of the movie “Hungry for a Fight” with the No Rest Till Death band. Can you please tell us more about that?

It was so funny how this happened. At the time Patricio asked my boyfriend and I — our band is No Rest Till Death — to write a song for the movie in the style of Olivia Newton-John’s “Twist of Fate” (Patricio loves that song by the way), we got right to work in the studio.

Sam began producing the track, he wrote the guitar part, laid down the synth chords and the solo, programmed the drums to give it that '80s vibe. I wrote the lyrics out of genuine unpleasant feelings toward someone who was really trying to bring me and my peers down. It really helped feed the spirit and the message of the song: That haters are gonna hate, but if you fight for yourself, for those you love, for your dream, for what it means to be a good person, you can rise above everything anyone sets up against you. And maybe you’ll just happen to get your song as the theme song for a feature film!



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A post shared by April Absynth || April Labson (@aprilabsynth) on


Yes, I’m so happy and proud to be a professional singer. Music has been in my blood since the day I became an idea! My parents, my siblings, my family are all amazing singers, musicians, performers; music resonated in every single corner of my childhood. I could never get away from it even if I tried!

So it’s truly a blessing getting to do what I’ve loved my whole life as a profession. It didn’t come without its sacrifices as far as relationships, career, and financially especially living in the Bay Area.

But now I currently tour with the '80s cover band Fast Times 80’s throughout California and Nevada, and I get to create my own original music with No Rest Till Death. All our original music is on Spotify, iTunes, and pretty much anywhere music streams.

Please tell us more about your role as Rachel in the movie and do you have some action scenes as well?

Rachel was such a fun character to play. She’s a Filipina-American high schooler who’s nice but feisty, just trying to make it in the world as second-gen, and trying to make sense of where she belongs in school, at home, in society, and in the day-to-day.

She just made me think of myself, my mom, my sister, and my niece all in one - putting all our combined experiences together to show how in one way or another, there’s a little Rachel in each of us, and probably in a lot of the Fil-Am women and girls out there today. And like Rachel, we always find a way to rise above every obstacle. Rachel is such a badass, and so are we.

There were some other parallels to our lives too between Rachel and I. Turns out Rachel’s role was actually supposed to be a guy originally, but the writers were looking for a change and decided on a strong female lead character. I was also going through a lot of changes and challenges in my life at the same time the character was coming to life from an idea, so it’s funny how both our desire for change aligned us in the most perfect way.



I did have some action scenes and I can officially say I did my own stunts! Maybe we can get some car racing scenes and jumping off building scenes in the next sequel (*hint hint* Patricio Ginelsa). I know it’s not easy, but I can start training now. “The Matrix” car scenes were filmed right on the other side of the bridge in Alameda! I’m just a drive away.

How was the experience of working in the movie? What were the memorable scenes for you? Any challenges?

There were cold nights in Daly City, but the company, the food, the laughs, and seeing people work their magic made it so worth it. Getting to fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it was something out of a dream. To be on set with people who had so much love, passion, and determination to be a part of a film that’s so fun and culturally unique — this was such a talented group of people. I truly mean that. The cast, the crew, everyone — it was such a positive experience. I can still feel the connection and the good vibes from being on set.

I definitely had some memorable scenes that are special to me. One was the rooftop scene because there was an emotional connection between my personal experience and Rachel’s, so it was powerful to be able to express that struggle of identity for both of us. Not to mention getting to work alongside Mark Munoz!

Another is the recruiting scene with Danny Trejo, because it was the first time I had filmed with someone I watched from my childhood. That was so crazy. Lastly was the very first classroom scene, because I got to work with a couple of my friends who went to the same high school and college as me (Katrina Dimaranan and Steven Vogel)! It was such a surprise to find out they were cast too. It was like I was living a flashback.

One of the biggest challenges was trying to stay away from all the good food. Seriously. Especially when I was in wardrobe. Oh the hunger.

How was it working with Danny Trejo and former UFC fighter Mark Muñoz?

Unbelievable. I never imagined I would work with them. Being called a badass by Danny Trejo and then be able to talk to Mark Muñoz about his family and goals, it’s something I still sit in awe of.

How was it working with director-writer Patricio Ginelsa?

Working with Patricio Ginelsa truly solidified in my mind and in my heart that anything is possible. Really. I’m still inspired by his relentless determination to achieve his vision, his leadership, and his ability to continue to believe in himself, his team, in you, in our community, in filmmaking.

To be greater than great is to be unstoppable; and nothing, not even COVID-19, could stop him from getting this movie done. That is truly the making of someone great. It’s a quality you see in top athletes, in top sports teams - heart, vision, determination, hard work, and teamwork. I’m proud that I got to be on his team.

What other projects do you have up your sleeves?

Right now I’m creating music with No Rest Till Death, working to get a new single or album out by next year. I continue to build my recording studio and I have some business plans that I am working on revolving photography, editing, and music production. There may possibly be a podcast in the near future as well. I am still acting and singing, so I’m excited to share with you any new projects on the horizon. Four years ago when I wrote in my planner that my goal was to be the lead in a feature film, who knew it was going to happen the next year? And who knew it would be with stars like Danny Trejo and Mark Muñoz? So I set my goals this year, and am undoubtedly optimistic about the next!

Mark Munoz (Silent Avenger/Kuya)



Were you familiar with the work of filmmaker Patricio Ginelsa? Have you seen his first “Lumpia” in 2003?

I honestly was not familiar with Patricio Ginelsa and his work, but did see a showing of the first “Lumpia” movie. I was not a part of that but it would’ve been an honor to be a part of it — like it is now an honor to be a part of the sequel.

I had such a great time working with Patricio and the Kid Heroes Production Team. I am also excited to see where this will take us and how we can make future blockbuster hits!!

What is so special about “Lumpia with a Vengeance?"

For me personally, what is special about “Lumpia with a Vengeance” is the fact that a boy gets bullied and finds a way to rise above his experiences and using it to help others.

It is a lot like what has happened in my life. I got bullied and now I have an Anti-Bullying Campaign and I have spoken to tens of thousands of students about my experiences and have been able to impact their lives with my story. Kuya (the main character) seeks to help and not divide.

What kind of action scenes did you do in the movie? Did you have a fight coordinator, trainer or choreographer? How did you use the lumpia in the movie?

In the movie, I was a part of a significant amount of the fight scenes. We did have a fight coordinator/choreographer.

In the movie, I had a deep fryer and a freezer on my hip, and a lumpia launcher that would launch the lumpia in the air and I would catch it and throw it at the bad guys. I ended up being really good at it. Haha!


Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie
Courtesy of Golden Brown & Deep Fried Movie

How was it working with Danny Trejo?

Working with Danny Trejo was pretty awesome! He was totally professional and I learned a lot from him. He’s a very skilled actor and I aspire to be like him in the Filipino community.

And with April Absynth?

April is a total sweetheart. She is compassionate, caring, and passionate about all that she does, singing, performing, and acting. She is amazing at all that she does and is such a pleasure to work with.

What challenges did you encounter while doing the movie? What were the memorable scenes for you?

There really weren’t any challenges that were too difficult, although I guess not having a speaking part except at the end. It was challenging because I have to show my emotions through my facial expressions, but it was a challenge that I didn’t mind at all.

Please tell us a more about yourself as a former UFC fighter and how did you get involved in acting and the movie industry? Is this your first Filipino film?

Never did I imagine I’d ever punch and kick people in the face for a living but my life experiences and choices led me to the UFC Octagon. Through getting bullied as a teenager, to getting involved into wrestling, then meeting Urijah Faber. Urijah took me under his wing and provided a way for me to learn MMA and helped me tremendously in the beginning. It was the time of my life and I’m very grateful for it. I don’t regret it one bit. I loved every part of it except the cutting weight part, ha ha!

The first film I starred in was “Here Comes the Boom” with Kevin James and Salma Hayek. I was one of the fighters that Kevin James had to get through to get into the UFC. It was an awesome experience. It was a pleasure to be cast by Garrett Warren and Kevin James and the whole Happy Madison Production Team.

What are your future projects?

Currently, I am the head coach of the MMA fight team at the Training Lab in Placentia, California. I also have a wrestling club that has over 250 wrestlers from all around Southern California. I’ve been able to have a wrestling camp called “The West Coast Wrestling Camps,” that I’ve been running for over 15 years. I also get contracted out to teach our military men and women to do hand-to-hand combat all over the world. I’ve been able to travel to Europe, Asia, all over North America, and the Middle East and sometimes even multiple times throughout the year. I feel blessed to be able to give back to the US Service men and women and the Special Forces. Now I am looking forward to getting more involved into acting. It is always amazing to be able to be on the silver screen. — LA, GMA News