Monday, February 29, 2016

Hoop hottie

Always Be My Maybe star Gerald Anderson loves basketball so much that he never misses an opportunity to play. He usually suits up for the Star Magic Games every year. This photo was taken during the opening of last year's sportsfest.
It’s no surprise that Gerald Anderson knows his way around the basketball court. His performance during the charity game Fastbreak, held last January 6, 2011 at the San Juan Gym for the benefit of Sendong victims, was a clear indication. Despite arriving with the game already underway, he still managed to rack up 11 points before halftime. Unfortunately, his team lost, but that didn’t detract from Gerald’s stellar performance.

But what not many people know is that it took Gerald a while—and a lot of determination and hard work—before he became the basketball star that he is today.

One of the people who helped Gerald on his journey was his high school basketball coach Pol Torrijos. Coach Pol first saw Gerald’s potential when he saw the latter play for the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University team when he was still in high school. “Fundamentally sound siya pagdating sa basketball. Ibig sabihin, basic talaga yung mga alam niya sa basketball noon,” Coach Pol says of Gerald’s skill level at the time. “Halimbawa, yung shooting, basics ng shooting at yung formula. Sa dribbling, basics ng dribbling. Sa pagkakaalam ko, nag-basketball clinic na siya sa States. So tingin ko, konti na lang ito, konti na lang ang ituturo, pwede na.”

The idea of helping Gerald become a force to be reckoned with on the hardcourt appealed to Coach Pol, so he invited the boy to join the high school varsity basketball team of the Holy Trinity College of General Santos. Gerald accepted Coach Pol’s invitation, but despite whatever potential he may have had, he didn’t exactly make waves in his first year suiting up for Holy, as locals fondly call the school. “In his first year sa school namin, bench warmer lang siya,” Coach Pol says.

Gerald may not have been able to contribute much from the floor in his rookie year, but he was an asset to the team nonetheless, thanks to his striking good looks. Many people flocked to the team’s games and even their practices just to get a glimpse of Gerald in his jersey. “Guwapo siya kaya marami na rin ang nakakapansin sa kanya noon. Actually, isa yun sa mga factors kung bakit ko siya kinuha. Gusto ko kasi may dating yung team namin. Totoo yun. Hindi niya lang alam yun,” Coach Pol laughs. “Pero aside from that, magaling na rin naman siyang maglaro. Nung una, yun lang role niya. Dahil sa kanya, maraming manonood sa amin, maraming supporters, sikat kami sa school. Napapasigaw ang mga babae at mga bakla dahil sa kanya. Bale pag nag-pa-practice kami, puno na lagi yung court namin doon. Na-achieve naman yung gusto kong mangyari.”

But good looks can only take you so far in life, and eventually Coach Pol realized he should teach his newest recruit that important lesson. One day, he sat Gerald down and advised him to stop depending solely on his good looks if he really wanted to make something of himself. Despite the language barrier—“Ang problema lang sa kanya before, pag nag-uusap kami, Bisaya. Hindi pa siya marunong mag-Tagalog nung araw. Kaya sa basketball practices namin, ang instructions ko dapat English. Sa States kasi siya natuto maglaro, kaya dapat English para madali niyang maintindihan”—Coach Pol got his point across, and thankfully Gerald took his mentor’s words to heart.

Gerald entered his sophomore year determined to push himself in the classroom as well as the basketball court. He put more effort into his studies and got good grades. Meanwhile, Coach Pol made adjustments to the team to hasten Gerald’s development as a player. “Nilagay ko rin siya sa tamang position. Dahil matangkad siya”—Gerald stands 5’10”—“pwede siyang maging center pero nilagay ko siya sa key position. Off guard at point guard siya.” Those adjustments and Gerald’s hard work paid off when he was crowned MVP of their league. “Practically every day nag-pa-practice siya, at team player siya kaya madali siyang nag-improve,” Coach Pol says.

Another reason for Gerald’s success is that basketball was more than an extracurricular activity to him. His love affair with the sport began when he was just eight years old and living in Springfield, Missouri where he picked up a basketball for the first time. But that’s not to say he didn’t try other sports growing up. When he was 12, he joined a youth soccer team and played in a tournament in Springfield, but he eventually found his way back to basketball. It was that sport that helped him fit in and make friends when he moved to GenSan at 14.

Recalls Sonny “Butz” Biboso, one of the first friends Gerald made in the Philippines, “Sa tapat ng bahay nila, may half-court pa diyan dati. Nag-ba-basketball kami ng pinsan ko. Siya nakaupo lang, nakayuko sa semento. Niyaya ko siyang sumali sa amin. Eh tatlo lang kami. Hindi ka naman pwede maglaro ng tatlo. So meron siyang tinuro na laro sa amin ng pinsan ko. Ang pangalan ng laro na yun ay ‘bucket.’ Parang wala siyang violations o traveling. Basta nakaka-score ka through follow-up. Kailangan pagka-score mo, follow-up agad ang bola. Bantayan kayo. Yun, nakapaglaro kami. Simula noon, yun na.”

Jalal Laidan, another old friend of Gerald’s, offers more proof of his passion for the sport. “Adik talaga sa basketball yan. Mula umaga hanggang gabi, basketball lang siya, walang kain. Hindi siya umuuwi ng bahay, puro basketball palagi. Lagi nga kaming pinapagalitan ng nanay niya.” All the recreational basketball Gerald played before his time at Holy is probably what made him, as Coach Pol put it, fundamentally sound and set him on the path towards becoming the MVP he was always meant to be.

According to Coach Pol, after Gerald was crowned the MVP of an interschool league in which all the public and private high schools in the SocSarGen area took part, he became something of a local celebrity. It can be said that that prepared him for life as a matinee idol. In fact, Coach Pol believes Gerald would have gone on to become famous for his basketball skills had Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition and the chance to join showbiz not come calling. “Pag nag-seryoso siya, sa tingin ko kayang-kaya,” he says of Gerald’s chances at making it in the big leagues. “Kung hindi lang nag-artista yan, doon siya sisikat. Doon ang direksyon naming dalawa.”

There was a time when Gerald was rumored to be considering a stint on the varsity team of a leading university in Quezon City. If things had gone according to plan, he would have enrolled in that university to finish college and play basketball. Unfortunately, that plan fell through because he couldn’t fit practices and games into his schedule. His dream of playing in the PBA Developmental League fell victim to the same reason. But Coach Pol still believes in him. “Tingin ko lang ho, kung makakaya niya yung schedule, at saka yung aral. Kasi sa Manila, kailangan pumasa ka bago ka makalaro. Ganun sa UAAP or NCAA. Pero kung based sa skill lang, walang duda, pwede siya,” he says proudly. “Maraming magugulat na si Gerald Anderson, UAAP material talaga.”

For now, Gerald is content to focus on his showbiz career while playing basketball whenever he can. But who knows what the future will bring? Maybe someday Gerald will find the perfect opportunity to make his hoop dreams come true at last.

Reprinted from Jules Explains it All on Wordpress, January 23, 2012 at 2:21 PM.

Photo by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

Mr. Torpe

Gerald Anderson is on fire right now, thanks to the success of his latest movie Always Be My Maybe. In light of that, I'm running here again a blog post I wrote about him five years ago for my old showbiz blog.
On the surface, the Gerald Anderson of today—the bankable actor who has several hit movies and teleseryes under his belt, including Won’t Last A Day Without You and Budoy, respectively—seems like he no longer has anything in common with his pre-showbiz self. Gerald acts, looks and talks differently now than he did before he joined Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition in the summer of 2006. But as Butz and Jalal tell it, the saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is apparently true in Gerald’s case.

For instance, Gerald already had girls screaming his name before he entered showbiz. His half-American genes helped him stand out in a crowd and made him very attractive to the opposite sex. Girls went to great lengths to get as close to Gerald as possible. According to Jalal, those girls were willing to do anything, like dip into their savings, for a chance to talk to him. Some of Gerald’s more enterprising classmates saw an opportunity to make a quick buck and went for it. “Marami nang nagkaka-crush sa kanya kasi kahit hindi pa siya artista, sikat na siya sa GenSan dahil sa basketball,” says Jalal of his friend. “Marami nang babae ang humihingi ng number niya. Yung mga kaklase niya, binebenta naman sa kanila yung number ni RJ sa halagang P2,000 bawa’t isa.” (RJ, BTW, is short for Gerald Randolf Opsima Anderson, Jr., or Randy, Jr. It’s what Gerald’s family and non-showbiz friends call him.)

Anyway, yes, you read that right. Showbiz was little more than a blip on Gerald’s radar at the time, but girls were already willing to part with their money just to get his cell phone number. Which begs the question, how much they would be willing to fork over for it now? If Gerald's current level of popularity is any indication, the answer is probably ten times the amount they paid for it all those years ago!

But you know what’s really funny? Gerald didn’t know how to deal with all those lovestruck girls. “Sobrang torpe ni RJ sa babae,” recalls Jalal with a laugh. “Minsan may nagkakagusto sa kanya. Pag sinasabi na, ‘O ayan RJ, may gusto sa ‘yo.’ Sasabihin niya, ‘Ayoko, nahihiya ako.’” So when a girl who bought Gerald’s number tried calling or texting him, he refused to pick up the phone because he didn’t have the courage to talk to the girl. Sometimes Jalal or one of their other friends would do it instead, just for kicks. “Oo, kami ang sumasagot,” Jalal says sheepishly.

Once, after answering one such call, they agreed to meet up with a girl and her friends. After much prodding from Jalal and another one of his friends, Gerald joined them, although he ended up watching the whole thing from a corner of the meeting place. “Minsan nag-meet kami. Sabi niya sa akin, ‘Ikaw ang magpanggap na RJ.’ Ayoko, nakakahiya. Ang nagpanggap na RJ, yung kasama ko. May dumating na mga babae, sabi nung kasama ko, ‘Ako pala si RJ Anderson.’”

Unfortunately for Gerald, the girls would have none of it, so their ruse fell flat. “Sabi nung isang babae, ‘Hindi naman ikaw si RJ Anderson. Ayun siya o, nakaupo.’ Sabi ni RJ, ‘Hindi ako si RJ. Ako si ganito.’”

Butz, a seaman who taught Gerald to speak Visayan when the latter first arrived in GenSan, says the language barrier his friend faced at the time made things worse. “Pag babae, magtatago yan. Kasi dati, may crush yan sa school nila na gustong-gusto rin siya. Siguro immature pa, hindi pa talaga siya marunong. Hindi lang siya mahiyain, para siyang sobrang torpe. Pag nakita niya yung babae, tatakbo siya. Kaya dati, tinatanong niya ako kung paano manligaw,” Butz says.

Butz and Gerald would sit in a bahay kubo perched on the edge of the Andersons’ property, in the area where a basketball court now stands, and there they would talk about girls. Or rather, Gerald’s inability to woo them and what he needed to do to change that. Butz tried to build his friend’s confidence by telling him to just go for it. “Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Hindi tatanggi yan kasi gwapo ka, eh. Amerikano ka.’”

However, Butz doesn’t remember if Gerald eventually found it in himself to man up and ask his crush out. “Hindi ko nasundan yun,” Butz laughs. “Parang wala, walang nangyari doon. Basta parang crush na lang yun.”

Gerald himself admits to being very shy around girls when he was younger. Before he moved to GenSan, he was living in Missouri with his family. At the time, Gerald had a big crush on one of his schoolmates, a girl he describes as a Taylor Swift lookalike. “Her name was Danielle. Kasama ko siya sa school bus noon, lagi kaming magkatabi, pero I was too shy to make a move,” he laughs.

These days, that Gerald is much removed from the one we know now. It shows how far he’s come. But his ties to GenSan remain as strong as ever. It will always be a part of him.

Reprinted from Jules Explains it All on Wordpress, November 23, 2011 at 8:19 PM.

Photo by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

This year's guy

I love this guy, and not just because he's really pretty, has blue eyes that sparkle like the sea on a sunny day, and sings like a rock angel to boot. Read on to find out why
I’ve been watching American Idol for years. Every year, I get very invested in a contestant—or two, as was the case in season seven, when Davids Cook and Archuleta bowled me over week after week with their talent. Season fifteen, the show’s farewell season, is no different. This year’s guy is 20-year-old Dalton Rapattoni from Dallas, Texas.

Some facts about Dalton, from the official American Idol Instagram:

I think the good thing about Dalton as a contestant is that he knows who he is musically and what he’s all about. That knowledge helps him make the right choices when it comes to navigating the competition. Dalton’s talent aside, the real reason I love him is because I see myself in him. Not only do we both sing and write songs, but like me, he has a mental health disorder. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was younger.

In a way, his diagnosis paved the way for him to be on American Idol. In an interview Dalton gave to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (a newspaper based out of Fort Worth, Texas) recently, he shared, “I was taking medicine that gave me seizures. I had to pull out of school because of those seizures, because I missed too many days.”

Dalton was subsequently home-schooled by his parents, which left him with a lot of free time. One day, a family friend suggested that he put all that time to good use and join the School of Rock, a music program for adults and children alike. Not having much else to do, Dalton signed up for the program, and he proved to be “not bad,” as he put it, at singing and performing. It was then that he realized music was his calling.

Dalton’s disorder is different from mine. He’s bipolar, I’m not. Without giving away too much about my own condition (because I’m saving my big reveal for when my video blog Free Julian Mauricio premieres in a few weeks) I will say that Dalton and I struggle with severe mood swings. Anyway, if you’re interested, you can read more about bipolar disorder here.

I really admire Dalton because it seems he’s handling being on American Idol well, considering he’s bipolar. What most people don't get about having a mental health disorder is that sometimes, even daily life can be overwhelming for someone like Dalton and me. I wish I knew how he’s coping with the pressure, because I don’t think I’d do as well if I were in his flowered Doc Martens. I’ve come a very long way since I began treatment in May 2015 but I still have so far to go.

It means a lot to me that someone competing on American Idol this year is in a situation similar to mine. Watching someone like Dalton flourish in a high-stakes environment inspires me to keep on keeping on. Now I'm like, if Dalton can do it, I have no excuse not to at least try, right? Furthermore, Dalton is living proof that people with mental health disorders shouldn’t be written off as crazy or whatever. We may be a little broken in some ways, but we can still shine.

Dalton, if by some miracle you’re reading this, I wish you all the best in the competition. I want you to go the distance so you can inspire more people like you have me. Break a leg!

Watch a compilation of Dalton's performances below:

Did you like this post? Sound off in the comments!

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Once again, Anne Curtis proves she's beautiful inside and out by donating her time to a worthy cause. More celebrities should do the same. I believe that when you're famous, you need to use your fame to help others, and that's exactly what Anne is doing.
Ever since Anne Curtis called me her “Dyosa twin” in 2007, I’ve always felt a special kinship with her. She was one of the first celebrities who added me on BlackBerry messenger, and it was during one of our first conversations on that app that we discovered our shared love for 90’s music. But that’s not all we have in common. If Anne’s latest passion project—a children’s book she wrote for UNICEF—is any indication, we also share a love for reading and writing.

Anne’s book Anita, the Duckling Diva, is one of six books in the UNICEF Children First! Storybooks collection. According to the press release that was handed out at the launch, the collection was produced with an eye towards promoting reading among children. Out of the collection's six books, five were illustrated and written by Filipino artists and writers. But any good cause needs some star power for it to gain as much attention as possible, and that’s where UNICEF Celebrity Advocate for Children Anne came in.

Each of the six books tackles a problem kids these days contend with. When deciding on a topic for Anita, the Duckling Diva, Anne chose to focus on overcoming shyness, because she’s all too familiar with that struggle. Anne used her own experience with coming out of her shell as fuel in writing the book, but she also did a little research on shyness in kids as she went along.

“I often interact with kids, and I noticed that a lot of them tend to be really shy. I was also like that when I was growing up, so I decided to write a book to help kids deal with that,” Anne explains. “I wanted to tell them that it’s OK to be shy and to tackle it in a certain way.”

The story of Anita, the Duckling Diva focuses on a duckling who loves to sing and wants to join a talent show, but is too crippled by her own stage fright to make a serious run at the top prize. Now, everyone knows Anne also loves to sing, so during the book's launch at SM The Block, my reporter mother Tinna Bonifacio asked Anne if she based Anita on herself.

“Well, there’s definitely a lot of me and a lot of love in the book,” Anne replied, laughing.

My mother was the one who influenced me to read and write, and Anne revealed that her parents also did the same for her by reading to her when she was younger. To this day, she believes that that's a great way for parents to bond with their kids. She also had what she describes as a "book collection." Among her favorite reads when she was growing up were E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. Mine were—well, anything I could get my hands on, but Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women stands out most in my mind.

Like me, Anne also developed the habit of journaling. “As a young girl, mahilig na ako magsulat sa diary, and kakaiba din yung way ko ng pagsulat, parang story na,” she shares. For me, writing in a journal really helped me hone my skills as a writer, and Anne says the same is true for her. So much so, in fact, that when she approached UNICEF with the idea of participating in this project, an early draft of her book was already done. However, it took Anne four more drafts and a lot of hard work before it was finally deemed ready for puiblication.

It makes me really sad when I think that these days, most kids would rather do anything else but read. It’s my hope that when kids see Anne talking about what reading and writing means to her, they’ll think those things are cool too. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll ask their parents for a copy of Anita, the Duckling Diva, which I hope will inspire them to read more in turn.

Interested parties can order any of the six books in UNICEF's Children First! Storybooks collection online at or at the UNICEF office from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Anita, the Duckling Diva and the five other books are priced at P100 each. Since all proceeds will be put towards UNICEF's programs for children, I'd say each book is worth your money.

It’s really great that someone like Anne is lending her star power to such a worthy cause. More than the glitz and glam attached to her name, I think her good heart is what makes her truly divalicious.

Here are a few more photos from the event:

Anne with UNICEF Philippines' Lotta Sylwander and illustrator James Abalos, with whom Anne collaborated on Anita, the Duckling Diva. This photo was taken at the book exhibit on the third floor of SM The Block.

After a quick tour of the book exhibit, Anne held a storytelling session at the atrium of SM The Block, which was attended by lots of children. Seeing all those kids getting enthusiastic about a book warmed my heart.

Anne with Lotta Sylwander and the other authors and illustrators behind UNICEF's Children First! Storybooks. I wish I could've gotten to interview some of them, but there wasn't enough time, so I'll buy their books instead!

All photos courtesy of Therese Gamilla, Senior Media Relations Specialist, M2Comms PR Agency Philippines.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The selfie expert

The OPPO F1 was on display at the launch. It comes in two colors, Gold and Rose Gold. Personally, I think I'd go for the latter. It reminds me of the Crayola crayon Carnation Pink, which was my favorite to color with as a kid. Hehe. #AlamNa
Last week, I attended the launch of the OPPO F1 smartphone at the TriNoma Activity Center. I was excited to finally get up close and personal with the phone billed as “the selfie expert." Up until that day I had only heard about this brand because of America’s Next Top Model, and since then I had been wondering if it was really as good as the show made it out to be. So when Laila Briones, Media Relations Manager of M2Comms PR Agency Philippines, invited me to the launch, I jumped at the chance. (Thank you for accommodating me, Ms. Laila!)

A different model, the OPPO N3, was featured heavily on the now-defunct modeling competition’s most recent cycle or season, which saw Nyle DiMarco from Washington, D.C., take the title. Not only did Nyle and his fellow modelstants use it to take great selfies, but the 23-year-old deaf individual also used the OPPO N3 to communicate with the rest of the cast by way of an app that converted text to speech.

A cute photo of Nyle and two other modelstants, including Cycle 22's eventual sixth-placer Dustin McNeer, was even flashed on an LED screen during the launch. I raised my digital camera to take a photo of it, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. Bummer. But it’s OK, because I found a longer video of them using the OPPO N3 to take selfies. Check it out below. I know they're not using the OPPO F1 in this video, but I think it's still worth watching because it shows how nice OPPO is as a brand.

The OPPO F1 looks to be just as impressive as the model featured on America’s Next Top Model. It has some unique capabilities that I, for one, have never seen on a smartphone before. According to the press release that was handed to members of the media at the launch, the OPPO F1’s front camera has 8 megapixels, an 84-degree wide angle lens with f/2.0 aperture, and a ¼-inch sensor that allows 40 percent more light to enter the camera than an f/2.4 aperture lens. Meanwhile, the rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, f/2.2 aperture lens and additional features.

Now, I’m not a professional photographer, so I don’t really know what all that means, but even with my limited knowledge of photography, it all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s as if the makers of the OPPO F1 found a way to fit a top-tier glam team in your smartphone. Case in point: with all the filters available on the OPPO F1, users can brighten their skin and remove blemishes. They can also use the phone’s display as a flash in low-light environments. To be honest, that was the one feature that made my ears perk up when I heard about it at the event. I hate having to move from place to place to find enough light to take a good selfie, so it's awesome that the makers of the OPPO F1 addressed that.

As you can see, the OPPO F1’s specs allow its owner to take great selfies that could win best photo on any season of America’s Next Top Model. If you’ve always dreamed of landing on the cover of a magazine or strutting your stuff on runways all over the globe, using this smartphone to take your selfies is the next best thing.

The OPPO F1 is priced at P11,990 and is available at OPPO concept stores and authorized dealers nationwide. I’m thinking about buying one, so I can get my smize on in a super way like Tyra Banks herself!

If, unlike me, you don't think America's Next Top Model isn't enough reason to get an OPPO phone, maybe the fact that our very own Popstar Princess endorses the F1 will seal the deal for you. Watch Sarah Geronimo's TVC for the OPPO F1 below. (She was supposed to perform at the launch but she got sick, so Princess of the ASAP Sessionistas filled in for her.)

Here are a few more photos from the launch at the TriNoma Activity Center:

Ms. Alora Guerrero, the Digital Marketing Manager for OPPO Philipines, explained why the OPPO F1 was dubbed "the selfie expert." She proved to be an expert herself, as she took a selfie with her team onstage. Her enthusiasm was cute!

Mr. Garrick  Hung, the Operations Manager for OPPO Philippines, gave a talk during the program, during which he revealed that the OPPO F1 will be available on Smart's All-in Plan 1200 and Sun Cellular's Best Value Plan 450.

The OPPO F1 is affordable for its specs. Even if you don't have a credit card, you can buy one at the rate of P1,299/month from February 19 to March 31, 2016, so visit an authorized dealer soonest! Ano, Popsters, push na yan, 'di ba? Haha!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Engaging with Matteo

Matteo Guidicelli is Giancarlo de Luca on Dolce Amore. It's interesting to note that Matteo's real name is similar to his character's; it's Gianmatteo Fernan Guidicelli. His Italian heritage makes him the perfect choice for this role!
Before I sat down to write this, I was trying to remember when I met Dolce Amore star Matteo Guidicelli for the first time. It was either at the grand presscon of one of his earliest projects or in the pages of some teen magazine I used to read. Regardless, I feel privileged that I can call him a friend.

We used to talk often, especially when BlackBerry phones were all the rage. Matteo gave me his personal BlackBerry Messenger PIN, and whenever I needed his help, like if I was writing an article about him and needed him to clarify something, he was always just one message away. He also followed me on Twitter. I never found it hard to engage with him at all, even if he already had a huge following. He was and remains very down-to-earth.

I found this in my Gmail inbox. It's the e-mail notification Twitter sent me when Matteo followed me years ago, on November 20, 2011. Back then he was only following 104 people. Good thing I managed to save this somehow.
I know for a fact that even though Matteo and I don’t get to talk as much because he’s busier now, he still keeps up with my tweets. Last year, I went on Twitter to rant about my day maid. The next time I saw Matteo, he asked me if I had fired my day maid like I said I would. Not only that, but he also laughed with me while I retold the story of how said day maid misplaced our house keys so Mom and I were locked out one night till our landlord rescued us.

Anyway, I’m happy that my friend is back on the Primetime Bida block via Dolce Amore. I really think Matteo is perfect for the role of Giancarlo de Luca. Aside from the fact that he’s of Italian descent, it was always Matteo’s grandfather’s dream to see him to do a showbiz project in their motherland. Privately, Matteo didn’t think that was at all possible for him, so he was pleasantly surprised when this teleserye landed in his lap.

He now looks at Dolce Amore as a way to honor his grandfather’s memory. “Sabi ko, wow. Kasi I lost my lolo last year, and his dream for me was to do a film, in Italian, in Italy. Sabi ko, it’s not going to happen. Bakit naman gagawa ang ABS-CBN ng ganun. Pero ito na, and I’m very blessed because this project is very close to my heart. Astig siya, and I’m blessed to be working with everyone in it.”

Matteo and LizQuen at the Dolce Amore grand presscon. When asked if he prepared physically for his role as the best friend of Liza's character, Matteo joked, "Tinanggal ko yung facial hair ko lahat, so parang 18 years old ulit. And short hair na ulit."
Matteo has nothing but good words for his Dolce Amore co-stars, especially the LizQuen tandem. He’s known Enrique for a while, actually. One of Enrique’s aunts is friends with Matteo’s mother. However, they have yet to film any scenes together. As for Liza, Matteo says he likes working with her because they get along even when the cameras aren’t rolling.

“Liza’s beautiful. Nakatrabaho ko na siya when she was seventeen. She’s eighteen now, and she’s very mature for her age. She makes her own decisions, and it’s very nice to see a woman like that, someone na very independent. Ang galing. Nakakatuwa siya kasi marami siyang talents na hindi alam ng mga tao. She likes to rap,” he shares, laughing.

I think Liza and Matteo get along because they have many things in common. For instance, beneath all the glitz and glamour, they’re just like everyone else. Liza can engage with anyone, and the same is true of Matteo. In fact, one of the things I like most about Matteo is that he treats those who work for him—like his driver and personal assistant—like family. I remember him telling me before that he would take them out for dinner and a movie or something whenever his schedule allowed. Didn't I tell you he's very down-to-earth?

Overall, Matteo is an engaging person, a trait that also expresses itself in his acting. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Giancarlo on Dolce Amore!

Did you like this post? Sound off in the comments!

Photos of Matteo (solo) and Matteo with LizQuen by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hope for the future

Cherie Gil plays the formidable Luciana Marchesa in Dolce Amore. Cherie came up in the industry playing kontrabidas in movies and TV shows, but she promises to bring something exciting and new to this show with the help of its directors, particularly Cathy Garcia-Molina.
According to Liza Soberano, one of the things she likes most about her new teleserye Dolce Amore is that it gives her the chance to work with a lot of veteran actors. One such veteran is none other than Cherie Gil, who plays Luciana Marchesa, the mother of Liza’s character Serena.

Dolce Amore marks Cherie’s second time to work with Enrique Gil, Liza’s perennial onscreen partner. In 2013, Cherie played his mother in the teleserye Muling Buksan ang Puso, but she had never even heard of Liza prior to accepting the role of Luciana.

When Cherie talked to reporters at the grand presscon of Dolce Amore, she revealed that she did some digging on the fast-rising young ingenue she was set to work with on the show. Fortunately, Cherie liked what her research turned up.

“Liza was a fresh name to me,” Cherie said by way of explanation during the presscon’s Q&A, when asked why she felt the need to bone up on all things Liza before reporting for work. “So when I finally met Liza, I told her, ‘I had to Google you and I saw that you’re astoundingly beautiful.’ I didn’t realize that she became sikat practically overnight pala!”

Cherie then turned to Enrique and said, jokingly, “You, Quen ha, you’re keeping secrets from me, ha. You knew Liza na pala even during the Muling Buksan ng Puso days. You were my son in that show, you used to tell me everything.”

According to my sources, Enrique smiled sheepishly and said, “Ah, yeah,” to which Cherie replied, “Well, at least now I know.” True, even if Enrique failed to help his former onscreen mother out, Cherie is now practically an expert on Miss Liza. Not only did Cherie do research, but she also got to spend some time with Liza when the Dolce Amore team flew to Italy last year to do some filming.

If you read my writeup on Liza, you know that she felt the need to step up her game when she started working with Cherie, who found herself impressed by the young actress’s work ethic. “We had a lot of fun. I have to say, Liza worked very hard on her Italian, and she felt a little embarrassed having to repeat some of her lines when we would do scenes together. I told her, ‘You’re doing fine.’ In fact, we’d wake up at five in the morning just to drive to the set, and in the bus we’d still be practicing our lines. Masipag si Liza,” Cherie enthuses.

Liza's fans should feel very proud of their girl right now. Cherie has been in the industry for decades. As such, she has seen many young actresses like Liza come and go, rise and fall. The fact that she sees fit to compliment her onscreen daughter like that bodes well for Liza's career. Veterans like Cherie don't just say nice things to be nice, you know what I mean? They usually only offer praise if they think it's well-deserved.

As taken as Cherie is with Liza in real life, her character Luciana is very hard on her daughter Serena, which may cause some to view her as the kontrabida on Dolce Amore. But Cherie says that’s not entirely true. According to her, Cathy Garcia-Molina (who helmed the first five episodes) made sure to keep Cherie in check, so to speak. Cherie is used to playing kontrabidas, so sometimes she can't help but fall back on old habits, especially when she's in costume. That's why she relies on Direk Cathy to remind her to change it up from time to time, since Luciana isn't meant to be a villain in the stereotypical sense.

“Yun ang maganda kay Cathy, she makes me alalay,” Cherie says. “I play a strict mother. There’s no real villain in this story, just as in real life, there is always a tendency to do certain things for a reason.”

Those reasons will become clearer as the show goes on. Besides, those who feel that Luciana is being much too hard on Serena can just take comfort in the fact that Cherie absolutely adores Liza in real life. But my real hope—pun intended—for Liza’s future is that acting opposite someone of Cherie’s caliber will help the 18-year-old come into her own and become the actress I know she can be.

Based on the screenshots below, it looks like there's a real possibility that that will happen.

Serena (Liza) takes a stand...
...but her mother Luciana (Cherie) isn't having any of it.
So Serena makes a bold choice...
...and runs away. Whew!
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Photo of Cherie Gil by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

That's my wish

Enrique Gil plays Tenten Ibarra in Dolce Amore, in which he reunites with Liza Soberano and the team behind their first teleserye Forevermore. "It's good to be back with them," he says. "So sa mga hindi pa nakaka-get over sa Forevermore, eto na."
I hardly remember the first time I met Enrique Gil. Seriously.

Our first meeting took place in 2008, when Enrique was launched as part of Star Circle Batch 16. I interviewed so many new Star Magic artists at that presscon that I felt like my head was spinning at the end of it. That’s probably why I don’t remember my first meeting with the guy who went on to become Simon Vicente 'Tenten' Ibarra, the charming raketero with a heart of gold in Dolce Amore, Star Creatives’ latest teleserye.

When I try really hard, I vaguely remember being introduced to a towheaded mestizo, shaking his hand and making small talk with him for a bit before he was whisked away to press more flesh. But that’s all. After that night, Enrique and I would run into each other at more industry events, including the presscon of one of his first projects, the sitcom George and Cecil. But we never got time to really bond, which I thought was a shame, as I had begun to wish I could get to know him more.

That wish was granted when I attended an ABS-CBN Publishing trade event at the Rockwell Tent in 2010. By that time, Enrique had joined a boy group called the Gigger Boys, made up of a bunch of up-and-coming Kapamilyas, most of whom were my friends. I went backstage to say hi to them, and the late AJ Perez introduced me to Enrique. Today (February 17) is AJ’s birthday, so I want to emphasize that if it wasn’t for him, photos like the one below—my first Instagram post featuring Enrique and I—probably wouldn’t exist.

AJ made my wish to get to know Enrique more come true. Thank God for that, because Enrique came through for me in a big way when I went through some tough stuff in 2012.

In October of that year, I visited the Princess and I set one night and Enrique noticed that I was down. Despite the lateness of the hour and the fact that he had to get ready for a scene, waved me over and asked me what was wrong. From my perspective, he couldn’t have picked a better time to do that because I really needed someone to talk to at the time—someone who would listen patiently as I spilled my guts and give me great advice afterwards to boot. And that’s exactly what Enrique did. I posted a photo of us taken after that conversation on Instagram. Check it out below.

Looking back, that night marked a turning point in our friendship. It was when I realized that I could trust Enrique with my life. I think it was also after that night that I started calling him “Quen” like his other friends do.

I eventually learned other things about him too, like how much he loves music. He was the one who introduced me to Avicii’s music when he played the song “Levels” for me once. He also borrowed my iPad to listen to music on YouTube when I hung out with him backstage at an SM Accessories event, and continued to give me advice on life and love, as evidenced by this tweet:

If you want to listen to some of the songs Enrique played on my iPad, check out this Spotify playlist I made:

Speaking of levels, I’m excited to see more of Enrique in Dolce Amore, because mukhang nag-level up siya dito in terms of acting. Tonight he made his debut as Tenten, taking over the role from child actor Marc Santiago, and viewers raved about his performance.

Playing a poor guy who has to juggle several jobs just to make ends meet has taught Enrique a lot of things. He realized how blessed he really is, especially when he filmed scenes in certain places. “I realized how easy we have it sometimes,” he told reporters at the Dolce Amore grand presscon. “When I was shooting sa construction sites, nakikita ko yung iba tinuturan mag-welding, ganun. I saw all these establishments and how hard people work for them, and to be in it and do what they do, I realized I have no reason to complain. It just opened my mind. It showed me things I really didn’t know. Iba siya. It was a humbling experience.”

Enrique adds that although Dolce Amore is different from his last teleserye, the closeness he enjoys with his co-stars now reminds him of the bonding moments he shared with everyone on the set of Forevermore. He freely admits that his bond with Liza has deepened, although he still says he has no plans to take things to the next level yet.

“Hindi pa pwede sa ngayon,” he says of possibly courting Liza, who just turned 18 this year. “We have other priorities right now, but we’re in a place na we’re so happy. And as long as you’re happy, nothing else really matters, ‘di ba?”

He has a point. For now, I’d rather they focus on work, because I want to see Enrique become even more successful than he is now—if that’s even possible. That’s my wish for him, and by extension Liza too. More power to LizQuen, I say!

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All photos (except Instagram posts and tweets) by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A real pal

Liza Soberano is Serena Marchesa in the teleserye Dolce Amore. Of her return to the Primetime Bida block, Liza says, "I'm happy to be back and give the fans something to watch every night, pero kinakabahan din po ako."
Last night, Dolce Amore aired its pilot episode and the fans of the Liza Soberano-Enrique Gil tandem turned out in force to support it. According to Kantar Media, it earned a 35.6% rating, which is more than double that of its closest competitor. Props to Liza and Quen, and to their fans for being so supportive of their idols’ latest endeavor.

In keeping with the second episode of Dolce Amore, here’s the latest installment in what will be a five-part series of posts on the show. Tonight I shine the spotlight on Liza, so I can explain why I feel she deserves her current place in the showbiz firmament.

I first met Liza in 2013, when she was launched as part of that year’s Star Magic batch. She hardly bothered with makeup back then, but that wasn’t a problem. Hers was—and still is—the kind of face that’s stunning even without it. My first impression of her, personality-wise, was that she seemed more fragile compared to the other girls in her batch. But I soon discovered that behind what appeared to be a mild-mannered façade lay a quiet strength and quirky sense of humor.

I can’t pinpoint when Liza and I moved past being acquaintances and became actual friends. I do remember that we became closer after we hung out for a bit at Starbucks ABS-CBN one night. She was waiting for a ride home from her acting workshop, so I offered to keep her company. That was also when we had our first photo taken together. Check it out below.

It wasn’t hard to bond with her. She was easy to talk to and really sweet. More bonding moments and photos followed that one, but this remains my favorite:

I was feeling down a few days before that photo was taken, and I went on Twitter to vent. I posted a photo of a Marilyn Monroe quote, and Liza tweeted me when she saw it. Here’s what went down:

The next time I bumped into her, she comforted me and we posed for the photo that is now my favorite one of us together. It was then that I realized she had become a real pal. When I was in a bad place, she took time out to help me in her own small way. That’s why I say she deserves every bit of success she’s enjoying. Not only did she work hard for all of it, but she’s a really nice girl to boot. You know the saying, “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person”? That’s certainly true in Liza’s case.

Dolce Amore is Liza's second teleserye with Enrique. "Masaya kami na lagi kami magkatrabaho, and it’s really good being with him because the foundation of our friendship is sobrang solid," she says of her onscreen partner.
At the Dolce Amore grand presscon, Liza was asked how she feels that ABS-CBN is building her up to be the next superstar, especially since she gets to work with veteran actresses like Cherie Gil and Rio Locsin in her latest TV project. (The former plays the mother of Liza’s character; the latter is Enrique’s adoptive mother in the show.)

Liza welcomes the opportunity to learn from the best, and she always put her best foot forward when in scenes with them. “Unang-una, sobra akong kinabahan kay Ms. Cherie. Kasi siyempre we all know that she’s a very, very good actress,” Liza says. “Puro Italian ang scenes namin, kaya na-intimidate ako, kasi ayoko naman na paulit-ulit kami dahil lang sa akin. Ayoko siya bigyan ng hard time, so I tried really hard na maaral yung mga Italian lines. Sobrang happy ako na at least nakakasama ko na ang mga veteran actors and actresses, and sobrang dami kong matututunan sa kanila. I’m just excited for the whole show to go on and on so I can learn more from them.”

Of her character Serena Marchesa, who is often described as a princess, Liza says this: “Actually, hindi naman talaga siya prinsesa. She’s just a girl who’s living a glamorous life. Ako, I never wished to be a princess, or to be anything more than what I actually am in real life. Gusto ko yung simple lang, but it’s nice to portray roles like this, para maiba lang. But for me in real life, I’d rather be ordinary.”

I can vouch for Liza’s desire to be ordinary, as she puts it. When she’s not taping or out at an event or something, she dresses nicely but simply. In fact, sometimes when I hang out with her, I forget that I’m in the presence of one of the Kapamilya network’s best and brightest. I think that’s part of Liza’s charm. In her desire to be ordinary, she becomes special. She doesn’t have to try too hard to be a star—she just is.

Thank you for the friendship, Liza, and I look forward to watching you continue to bring Serena to life on Dolce Amore!

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All photos (except Instagram posts and tweets) by Allan Sancon for Jules Explains it All.
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Maira Gall