Monday, November 13, 2017

An open letter to Pia Kim Mendoza

Jon Lucas and I have a ride-or-die friendship.
Hi everyone,

I was very busy all day with my mother and Wansapanataym’s newest installment, so I didn’t get a chance to read Pia Kim Mendoza’s statement until now. But when I finally found the time to do so, my eyebrows soared with every line I read. Read it below if you want to understand why.

Pia Kim Mendoza's response to the controversy.
Pia, were you high when you wrote your statement? Because from where I sit, it makes absolutely no sense. First of all, you didn’t apologize for your tweet. You acknowledged that it was wrong, but there’s a huge difference between that and a real apology. Nowhere in your statement did you say “I’m sorry” or anything like it. In fact, instead of apologetic, you came across as defensive.

Second of all, who you are is irrelevant, or at least it is to me. As far as I’m concerned, the issue isn’t your character, but what you tweeted in response to Franco Hernandez’s passing. I think it’s safe to say that none of us—Jon Lucas, me, or Vice Ganda—knew you before you caught our attention by putting your foot in your mouth. I don’t presume to speak for Jon or Vice, but I admit I drew my own conclusions about your character based on your tweet.

So you told us we don’t know the real you. Alright, Pia. Point taken. But as Taylor Swift wrote in the prologue of reputation, “We think we know someone, but we only know the version of them they’ve chosen to show us.” Look, Pia, I’m sure your family and friends think you’re amazing, and under the right circumstances, maybe you can be. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the side of you that you showed Jon, me, Vice, and everyone else on Twitter. With your tweet, you showed us all a side of you that’s hateful and mean-spirited.

Third, I’m so amazed you had the gall to say, “Sana bago nyo ko pinagsalitaan ng foul and offensive words inisipi (sic) nyo muna kung anong ginawa ko sa inyo para pagsalitaan ang family and friends ko ng ganun.”

Pia, I could say the same of you. Sana bago ka nag-tweet ng ganun nag isip ka muna. Do you really believe that what you tweeted wasn’t foul and offensive, given the cirumstances? Can you approach me and Vice in person, look us in the eye and tell us that wishing Jon had died instead wasn’t foul and offensive? Ano? Sagot.

Franco died. So many people, Jon and Vice included, were grieving. If you’ve never experienced the loss of a friend or family member, you’re lucky. But I have, and let me tell you that it sucks beyond the telling of it. When I lost a close friend (actor AJ Perez) in a car accident six years ago, it took me a long time to get over it. I wasn’t close to Franco—I only met him briefly a few months ago—but I can imagine how much his family and friends are hurting right now. Because I’ve been there.

You tweeted something foul and offensive when people were in major emotional pain. Personally, what really upset me was when you wished Jon had died instead. Jon and I are like brothers. He’s the nicest person you could ever hope to meet. Furthermore, he’s already suffered two huge losses this year. Jon's mother Jean and actress Isabel Granada (who played his character's mother in Got to Believe) passed away within months of each other. Jon doesn’t need more crap, especially from people like you, which is why I decided to dignify your clumsy statement with a response. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m fiercely protective of my friends. But I digress.

You brought up freedom of speech by telling us, “this is a free country, we can do what we want.” I think you're misguided. You believe having freedom of speech gives you an excuse to be horrible to other people. That’s not how it works. Freedom of speech is a great power. But as any Spider-Man fan knows, "with great power comes great responsibility." We need to exercise freedom of speech responsibly by being careful about what we say, especially if it may hurt others.

So let me ask you, when people reacted badly to your tweet, how did you feel? Weren’t you hurt? If you did, then you probably know how Jon, Vice and anyone else who saw your tweet felt—and you’ll probably agree that no one should ever have to feel that way. I’m sorry you felt hurt. But, and I hate to be the one to point this out, you brought this on yourself. No one would’ve come for you, guns blazing, if you hadn’t tweeted anything. You can’t do or say something hurtful then play the victim card when karma comes around.

Have you ever heard the old saw that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all? That’s an option you might want to consider in the future. If you don’t like me, or Jon, or Vice, that’s alright. But what you did went beyond that. It was in extremely bad taste.

You didn’t state an opinion, Pia. Saying you don’t like Jon, that’s stating an opinion, which of course you’re entitled to. But saying sana siya na lang ang namatay instead of Franco? That’s not stating an opinion, that’s being downright horrible to someone who never did anything bad to you, at a time when he was suffering. Not to mention disrespectful of the person who actually did die.

You want to talk being “masahol pa sa hayop?” I have two golden retrievers. Whenever I’m sad, they comfort me by jumping into my lap or licking my face. Even dogs have the capacity to be kind when people are in pain. That's why they’re called “man’s best friend.” Eh ikaw? You must have known Jon and Vice were in pain, but you chose not to be kind. You chose to be cruel.

You said you didn’t expect them to notice your tweet. Why? Because they have millions of followers  between them and a correspondingly large number of notifications on any given day? That’s such a pathetic excuse. In this day and age, with social media having become a vital part of communication and the exchange of information, you had to have known that somehow, your tweet would find its way back to Jon, Vice, or one of their friends. And it did, which is how I came to be writing this open letter.

You asked, who are we to judge you? Oh, we’re just the people you hurt in less than 280 characters. I put a version of your own question to you. Who are you to say something so horrible to a guy who never did anything like that to you? And the “simpleng tao” defense? You know that line’s a load of bull, right? This isn’t about them being celebrities and you not being one. It’s about you not treating another human being with basic human decency when that would have been the right thing to do.

You should’ve owned up to your mistake and apologized. But instead you acted as if the shoe was on the other foot—as if kami pa yung mali dito. Wow. Sorry po. Sorry po na nasaktan kami sa sinabi mo tungkol sa kaibigan naming nagdadalamhati dahil namatay ang kaibigan at katrabaho niya.

Pia, I hope you never ever end up in a situation where you’re in need of compassion, kindness and understanding. Because if you ever do, I’m really not sure you can expect any of those things from the universe considering how you behaved today.

If you want people to be compassionate, kind and understanding towards you, you have to be able to extend the same grace to them. You get what you give. You reap what you sow. Think on that.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

MarNigo mania

I'm so happy for my friends Inigo Pascual and Maris Racal. Good luck on MMK tonight, MarNigo!
When I bumped into my brother Inigo Pascual at the ABS-CBN studios last week, we got to talking about his tandem with Maris Racal. I told Inigo I was pleasantly surprised by how much support it generates, especially after he and the Pinoy Big Brother All In alumna performed a heart-stopping rendition of the Usher and Alicia Keys duet “My Boo.”

I added that it seems the Ultimate Teen Heartthrob finally found a girl who has what it takes to help him take both their careers to the next level. His response? “I think you're right, Kuya.”

Off the back of MarNigo’s One Music PH performances and strong social media following comes #MMKLoveTeam, their first Maalaala Mo Kaya guesting. I contacted the episode’s director, the one and only Mae Cruz-Alviar, to ask her what she thinks of MarNigo and their future.

Hello, Direk Mae. What was it like working with Inigo and Maris? Ano po ang napansin niyo sa kanila on-cam and off?
Nakakapanibago for me kasi new love team sila na first time ko makakatrabaho. I've worked with Inigo before on the movie Crazy Beautiful You, but I didn't know what to expect from him and Maris as a pair. After three days together, I can say that magaling sila magpakilig and natural sila sa kilig scenes. I've noticed that the two are very close to each other. Off cam they were always talking and they seem to enjoy each other's company very much. They would be listening to music, singing, etc. They supported each other in scenes and they work well together. They're comfortable with each other which helps a lot. 

Marami na pong naka-love team sina Inigo at Maris. Do you think their tandem will be the one that really clicks? Why or why not po?
I think that this team up has potential because they work well together musically and even in acting. Furthermore, they have natural chemistry especially in the kilig scenes. 

Any thoughts po on working with Heaven Peralejo and Vivoree Esclito? 
These two girls were very eager to learn and I could feel their excitement on the set. I had an easy time working with them. They were very natural and I can see them taking on more roles.

Direk Mae has worked with a lot of love teams in the past, so she knows what's up when it comes to chemistry. If she says MarNigo has potential, then they do. I for one can't wait to see what else is in store for them!

Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN Social Media Newsroom.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


With OPPO endorser Janella Salvador, who also happens to be one of my closest friends, at a resto in Katipunan.
Before anything else, I want to make it clear that this is not a review—at least not in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t know nearly enough about the technical side of things to write a serious review, so this post is more of a reflection on what the OPPO brand means to me.

Sometime last year, I bought an OPPO F1s. Believe me when I say that it wasn’t an easy purchase to make. At the time, my mother had just had a hemorrhagic stroke, so our family was hemorrhaging money too. A new cell phone would normally have been out of the question, considering what we were going through financially, but I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that I needed one for work.

As a freelance writer, I do most of my work from the comfort of my home. Even so, I need to stay in touch with my clients, for which I need a decent smartphone. Preferably one that can call, text and will let me use a wide range of apps. After considering my options, I settled on the OPPO F1s. 

I chose the OPPO F1s because I remembered being very impressed with its specs when I went to an OPPO event at TriNoma early last year. Furthermore, America’s Next Top Model featured an OPPO phone in Cycle 22. Sarah Geronimo was one of the brand’s first Filipino endorsers. So I thought, “If an OPPO phone is good enough for the Popstar Royalty and Tyra Banks, it’s good enough for me!”

So it was that I bit the bullet and spent 14,000 on an OPPO F1s—and I didn’t regret my purchase at all. I’m not a brand ambassador for OPPO and no one’s paying me to say this either, but my OPPO F1s turned out to be more than worth its weight in gold.

I’m a super heavy cell phone user. Aside from calling and texting the people I write for, I’m on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter) practically all the time. I take a lot of photos and videos for work and play. There was even a time when I was heavily addicted to Pokémon GO. But despite all the hoops I made it jump through, not once did my OPPO F1s malfunction on me. It was truly a faithful—and at times my only—companion during the long, seven months my mother lived at my grandmother’s condo, where she began the process of bouncing back from her stroke.

Unfortunately, my OPPO F1s and I were parted when it was stolen from me last February. I walked a female friend to the Araneta Center-Cubao MRT station, where someone’s sticky fingers plucked it from my bag. For a while I put up with my mother’s old, banged-up China phone. I didn’t mind using it despite the spiderweb cracks on its screen. But it too finally met its end earlier this month, when a friend accidentally bathed it in soy sauce. Luckily, the same day it conked out, a colleague—blogger extraordinaire and all-around nice guy Ted Claudio—offered to lend me a spare phone. Imagine my surprise when he pulled an OPPO F3 out of his backpack and handed it to me.

I’ve been using the phone Kuya Ted lent me for several weeks now, and I flove it. It’s just like having my OPPO F1s again, only with a better camera and a sleeker black finish (my OPPO F1s was white). There are a lot of things I love about OPPO phones, not the least of which is the ColorOS. It’s real user-friendly.

Having the OPPO F3 has made my life so much easier. Having to use my mother’s old China phone stressed me out so much. It was already on its last legs, so it would constantly reboot on its own, which has caused me to accidentally hang up on a client and lose important files like recordings of interviews. Because the OPPO F3 Kuya Ted lent me was in excellent working order, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. It allowed me to focus on my job, which in turn allowed me to take care of my mother.

OPPO may be just a smartphone brand to some. Call me dramatic, but to me, it’s a lifesaver. Aside from helping me do my job well, the OPPO F3 I borrowed from Kuya Ted has gone such a long way towards helping me establish more control over my mental illness. So much so, in fact, that I can't imagine how I'd function without it.

Back in 2015, I was diagnosed with a serious personality disorder. Earlier this year, my psychiatrist suggested I try out an app called What’s Up? – Mental Health App, which he said might help me deal with my anxiety attacks and regulate my rapidly shifting moods. I installed it on my OPPO F1s, but like I said, it was stolen before I could use the app in earnest. My mother’s old China phone didn’t support it, so I gave up on the app—until Kuya Ted came along and lent me his spare unit. Now I’m able to use the app, and my mental state is much better than it was a few months ago.

But that’s not all. When my BFF Janella Salvador found out I was using an OPPO F3, she was tickled pink. She then proceeded to teach me how to make the most of the phone's different functions, like its awesome new camera. Jea's an effective and knowledgeable endorser, if I do say so myself.

Check out some of the photos she and I took with the OPPO F3 below.

Janella taught me how to use the OPPO F3's 16MP camera with extra-large pixels and double view group selfie camera.
Based on my own experience, OPPO is a brand I'd recommend to those looking for a smartphone that will save their lives, not just make them easier.

To OPPO Philippines and Kuya Ted, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The talented Mr. Martinez

A screengrab from Sir Albert Martinez's first appearance in La Luna Sangre as Prof T.
Recently, I got the chance to visit the set of La Luna Sangre to interview the talented Albert Martinez about his character, Prof T. Read on for a lot of interesting revelations about the show and his bond with KathNiel!

How does it feel to be part of this show?
Honestly, to be part of something with this magnitude is overwhelming. Also, napaka-interesting ng narrative ng soap opera na ito. Magaganda ang takbo ng mga character, kasi bawat isa may kanya-kanyang secret na pwedeng ma-reveal sa proseso ng pagtakbo ng kwento.

Describe your character.
He’s very mysterious. It’s so hard to tell kung black or white character siya. Kaya ako nagkaroon ng interest sa character na ito kasi hindi mo siya ma-timpla. Hindi siya yung klase ng character na pag nakita mo, what you see is what you get. Marami siyang layers na hindi maintindihan ng mga taong nakapaligid sa kanya. I’m having a great time playing this character because he's unlike anyone I've ever played before.

What’s so different about Prof T compared to your previous roles?
Mysterious siya pero may comedic side siya because of his personality. Ito ang pinakamahirap na ginawa kong role dahil hindi ako comedian. Wala akong inborn talent na magpatawa. So I tried to be as natural as possible and naghanap ako ng magandang peg na pwede kong gawing basis. There are actors I idolize who aren’t comedians but marunong sila magbato ng lines nila in such a way na nakakatawa sila. Like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars. Yung characters that he plays in those movies are serious at normal kung magbato ng lines, pero ang dating sa audience is nakakatawa. Isa pa, mahirap ito dahil multilayered yung character ko, so ang pinanghawakan ko is his intention, his objective. Kasi kapag nawala yung hawak ko doon, I’ll get confused as an actor.

Tell us a little bit about Prof T’s background. Peel back some of his layers.
Well, parang he’s an overachiever. He studied in Harvard, and he became a scientist at Pennsylvania State University. Natuon na yung attention niya sa biological composition ng mga bampira, so Prof T devoted his life to the study of vampires. Kung bakit, malalaman niyo rin eventually. Maganda ang backstory ni Prof T.

How much of your character’s backstory do you know, and how much of it are you learning at the same time as the viewers?
As far as my character’s backstory, when this project was presented to me, one teleserye’s worth na siya. Ganun na kalalim yung understanding ko sa character na ito. Alam ko na kung anu-ano yung pinanggagalingan niya—yung nakaraan niya, yung connection niya sa mga bampira, lahat. He’s kind of a mad scientist. Kasi meron siyang gustong ma-achieve at gagawin niya ang lahat para doon. He’s the type of person who’s like, ‘Pwede ko nang kalimutan ang lahat basta ma-achieve ko lang ito.’ Not because of his persona, but because of what he’s gone through in life.

Will you be doing any fight scenes?
Actualy, yun nga yung positioning namin as far as this group is concerned. Kami yung pang-action dito sa show. Kung merong army ng mga bampira, ang Moonchasers ang army ng mga humans. Pero yung fight scenes ko may halong humor din. Also, in the future malaaman ng manonood kung bakit skilled fighter si Prof T.

Were you always meant to play Prof T?
I was supposed to play the part of Tristan’s father. Originally yun talaga ang role ko. Unfortunately, nung time na naka-schedule yun, meron na akong ginagawang iba. Hindi kaya ng schedule ko yung sumali sa La Luna Sangre so kinalimutan ko na yun and nag-concentrate ako sa ginagawa ko. Until I believe after the first two weeks of the show, nag-iba sila ng strategy. Ngayon naka-focus na yung kwento sa fight against vampires, kaya naman na-create yung character ni Prof T. 

Why did you choose to use a fake beard when playing Prof T?
At the moment kasi, meron akong ginagawang isa pang project kung saan malinis ang hitsura ko so hindi ako pwede mag-grow ng facial hair. So we decided to use prosthetics na lang. It’s a sacrifice because it takes about an hour and a half to put the full beard on.

In a recent episode, we got a glimpse at a new female character. Is there any connection between her and Prof T?
Ngayon ko lang ito sasabihin. Oo, may direct connection sila, pero nakabalot pa rin ito sa misteryo. Siguro magugulat na lang ang lahat kapag nalaman nila kung sino ba ang babaeng yun at kung ano ang connection niya kay Prof T.

What can you say about Prof T’s relationship with the Moonchasers?
Instrument lang sila for Prof T to achieve his goals. So in a way, he’s just using them. Wala siyang emotional attachment sa Moonchasers. Doon niyo na makikita yung layering niya. Maganda yung pagkakahimay nila ng character. The last time I worked with Kathniel, si Haring Anand was pusong ginto, hindi siya makabasag-pinggan. Punung-puno siya ng pagmamahal sa pamilya niya. Anyway, let’s just move forward. Marami pang revelations. Ayoko naman maging spoiler.

Alright, Sir. How does it feel to be working with KathNiel again?
Long overdue na. Actually, nung natapos nga yung Princess and I, na-miss ko yung team ng buong teleserye na yun. I had been longing na hopefully soon magkasama kaming lahat ulit. Actually, the production staff and most of the actors ng Princess and I nandito, so parang reunion namin ito. It was one of the factors kung bakit ako pumayag na sumali sa show na ito kasi I wanted to work with Daniel and Kathryn again.

What’s the best part of working with KathNiel?
Yung bonding namin nung Princess and I, naging solid. Kaya nung nagkita kami dito, parang nag-continue lang. We were all just so happy to be together again. Mga anak ko na yang dalawang yan eh. Nung ginagawa namin yung Princess and I, mga baby pa lang kasi sina Daniel at Kathryn. Pero ngayon adults na sila pareho, so nakakatuwa rin na they grew up to be very good people. I’m happy na meron na silang sense of awareness, respect and responsibility. They were already professional before, pero lalo na ngayon. Yung passion nilang dalawa for their work is beyond that level na.

Sir Albert as Prof T in a scene with the Moonchasers.
Watch out for Albert Martinez as the enigmatic Prof T in La Luna Sangre, which airs daily after FPJ's Ang Probinsyano. You can also catch the show on iWanTV.

All photos courtesy of La Luna Sangre.

The Fantastic Four

I'm happy for Jona Soquite, Isabela Vinzon, Jeremy Glinoga and Mica Becerro. Such talented teenagers!
The finale of The Voice Teens is right around the corner, so I thought this would be the perfect time to sound off on the final four.


When Isabela launched into “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone during her blind audition, I couldn’t help but think of my pal AJ Tabaldo, whose American Idol journey ended when he sang this song in week two of the season six semifinals. Luckily, this song didn’t torpedo Lala’s chances like it did AJ’s.

I like Lala because not only does she have a unique tone, but she also has a backstory I can relate to. Lala is the daughter of character actor Roi Vinzon, and she joined The Voice Teens because she wanted to establish herself in an arena that’s not her father’s. My mother Tinna Bonifacio is also an entertainment journalist with decades of experience in magazines and newspapers under her belt. Journalism is a shared passion of ours, but I also want to make my own name in this industry. But I digress.

I remember being very upset at Coach Bamboo for pitting Lala and Reign against each other in the battles. I liked Reign’s audition too and I didn’t want either of them to be eliminated. But I loved that he chose Alessia Cara’s hit “Here” for them. It fit both Lala and Reign, but in my opinion, the former simply outperformed the latter.

I was pleasantly surprised that Lala sang this Etta James classic during the knockouts. If I ever get to talk to her in person, I’m going to ask her why she’s such an old soul when it comes to music. I love that Lala really tore into this song, showing off her gorgeous tone in the process.

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy this performance of Lala’s. I simply couldn’t get the Christina Aguilera rendition out of my head long enough to appreciate hers. I love Lala, but this performance just didn’t do it for me.

Now this is much a better fit for Lala. This song is a precursor to every cut on Lady Gaga’s Joanne album. I think Lala should record songs that sound like this. She sounded confident and in control here as opposed to her previous performance, where it seemed like the song was controlling Lala instead of the other way around.


I love classically trained singers because classical technique is the best foundation on which one can build a singing career. Mica is an intelligent singer. Her technique is so amazing. No other The Voice Teens artist can sing quite like she can. I love how she handled that snippet of “Starting Over Again,” but nabitin ako.

This song was a very smart choice on Coach Lea’s part because it played to both singers’ strengths yet forced them to stretch themselves too.

David Archuleta, one of my all-time favorite American Idol contestants, sang a poppier version of this song during his season. So listening to Mica sing it brought back a lot of fond memories for me. I really thought Mica did this song justice. There aren’t many teenage singers who can say they sang this Andrew Lloyd Webber composition well, but she can.

I thought this performance was a good way to show that she could take a pop song and make it her own, but I want to see how Mica will do singing something without making it sound like a classical music piece. Like, I want to hear her try hitting high notes in her chest voice and middle voice. Let’s all hope she’ll get a chance to do that in the finale.

In my opinion, this is Mica’s best performance to date. It came together perfectly. She managed to adapt her classical technique to a pop song by a classically trained pop singer, as Coach Lea said. 

This performance gave me a glimpse of the kind of recording artist Mica could become. I would love to see her shine even after The Voice Teens, so she needs to adapt her technique to what the masa would enjoy. If she’s truly serious about bringing classical music to the masses, she needs to adopt a stealthier approach. She should present classical music and/or technique within pop music, if that makes sense.


I fell in love with this girl the second she started singing “Anak ng Pasig” during her blind audition. That Geneva Cruz original is special to me. It was one of the first songs I learned to sing before my voice broke. But that’s beside the point. I liked Jona from the get-go because of the raw emotion she brought to the song. Coach Bamboo had concerns about her tendency to shout with tone—which reminded me of something one judge said about Kelly Clarkson on World Idol. But I think Jona just needs to learn how to control her voice a little more and she’ll be alright.

I thought this was a perfect battle pairing. But Jona had the edge here because it seemed like Chloe was aiming to impress rather than express. Jona was the one who seemed like she really got into the spirit of the song.

One of my favorite things about Jona is how clear her voice is even when she’s bubbling over with emotion.

Jona reminded me of a little Sarah Geronimo on this song. Parts of this performance were fantastic. It was good that she did something upbeat. Frankly, she was getting to a point where she had to surprise viewers to sustain their enthusiasm for her. IMHO, this performance did the trick.

Jaw-dropping. ‘Nuff said.


I firmly believe with all my heart that even if this guy doesn’t win, he’ll still have a successful career. Jeremy has “superstar” written all over him. He has the X factor. When I watched his blind audition, I remember thinking he has serious vocal chops—and his next few performances more than proved me right.

As of this writing, the video of this performance has been viewed more than four million times on YouTube. I remember being completely bowled over by the fact that Heather and Jeremy were able to sing so well in Tagalog despite not having grown up in the Philippines. I loved how great Jeremy’s voice was here, and his chemistry with Heather was off the charts.

My favorite part of this performance was the beginning. It was tasteful because Jeremy didn’t start singing his face off immediately. He began intimately, quietly and built up to a rousing—yet no less touching—second half.

This song showed off the texture of his voice perfectly. I just want him to work on strengthening his falsetto. It’s nice enough as it is, but I kind of feel like if he pushed it a little more and supported it with better breathing, it will become stronger. 

Whoa. I didn’t expect this from Jeremy. I mean, I know he’s good, and he’s been one of my favorites from the start, but I was surprised by how well he sang this Harry Styles hit. It fit him like a glove. In case the MCA Music team is reading this, this is the kind of music Jeremy should make in the future. He could do very well with this style. Besides, this country is already lousy with balladeers.


I haven’t seen a final four this captivating since Darren Espanto’s time on the show. They each have a distinct style, which bodes well for their future in the industry. Right now, Jeremy and Mica are my favorites, but I honestly wish all four of them the best.

All photos and videos c/o The Voice Teens Philippines.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hugs and 'Kisses'

Being with Kisses Delavin is nice because she's one of the sweetest people I've ever met.
If I’m being completely honest, when I first met Kisses Delavin, I knew very little about her. I didn’t watch Pinoy Big Brother Lucky 7 closely, so all I knew was that Kisses was a Star Magic Workshops student like me. 

Thankfully, it turned out that was all I needed to forge a connection with the Miracle Daughter ng Masbate.

When I saw her at the Big 4’s first press conference—which took place immediately after the Big Night—I thought Kisses looked a lot like Janella Salvador and carried herself like Pia Wurtzbach. She had a regal air that expressed itself in the way she talked to the reporters. Her answers to all their questions were well crafted, her words measured yet profound and sincere. From where I sit, that means she’d probably do well in the question round at beauty pageants.

After the presscon, I introduced myself to Kisses and asked for a selfie. Then, when I told her I was a Star Magic Workshops student too, her eyes lit up. We would have spent the entire night gabbing about our acting classes but she had to leave for another engagement. 

Over the next few months, Kisses and I followed each other back on Twitter. We even exchanged tweets...

...and Direct Messages, which of course will stay private. 😉

I also took time out to visit her and some other friends at the Star Magic Workshops office every Tuesday. Last week, I brought them some brownies that I had baked. Kisses sampled one and she said it was delicious, which made me happy. However, I noticed that she seemed slightly subdued, so as everyone else devoured my brownies, I pulled Kisses aside and asked if everything was alright with her.

I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say I had to remind her that she’s a beautiful, independent and strong young woman—she’s already 18—who truly has what it takes to build a successful showbiz career.

When I finished talking, Kisses said, “Salamat, kuya. Ang bait-bait mo sa amin kahit baguhan pa lang kami.”

“Walang anuman,” I replied. “Ganito ako because workshopper din ako. We have the same dreams. I want you to know that I’m always here if and when you need me. I don’t want you or any of your classmates to feel like you have no one to turn to when you need encouragement. I want to spare you guys that feeling because I’ve been there and it sucks.”

For a moment I thought Kisses would cry. But then she took a deep breath, smiled and hugged me. I was so surprised that all I could do was pat her back and tried not to cry myself.

That same night, Direk Rahyan invited me to audit Kisses’ class. We sat in the back—in the same row as Christian Morones and Marco Gallo—and watched as students from the Advanced Class and Masterclass did camera work. Watching the scene made me tear up. Kisses noticed how emotional I was, so she took my hand and squeezed it. She had strength to spare even if she was as caught up in the intensity of the scene as I was. (It’s a workshopper thing. It’s hard to explain.)

I’m aware that there are a lot of people who don’t like Kisses based on what they saw of her during her Pinoy Big Brother Lucky 7 stint. But I believe to know her is to love her. Hey, I didn’t know much about her at first, but now I do and I love her to bits.

Monday, July 17, 2017

No matter what

Chillin' with Jed Madela at his The Iconic Concert Series: Jed Madela Sings Mariah Carey show sometime last year.
I can’t tell you how or when Jed Madela and I became friends, because I don’t remember. What I can tell you is why.

Jed and I are equally passionate about music. I’ve lost count of how many talks we’ve had about the artists whose albums and singles shaped our tastes. We’ve also talked about our respective forays into songwriting. When I finish a song, he's usually among the first to listen to my demo and tell me what he thinks. He can be sassy at times, but his criticism is always constructive and insightful.

I value Jed’s opinion because he knows his stuff. He wouldn’t have won the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in 2005 if he didn’t. Furthermore, I love the fact that he’s not stingy with his knowledge. Even if Jed never gave me formal voice lessons, I learned as much from him as I did from my actual vocal coach. A lot of what I know about proper breathing and vocal placement came from him.

Jed gives of his knowledge freely because he loves people. He once told me that he wants to help others as much as he can, however he can. As far as music is concerned, he wants to pass on the things he’s learned to those who want to follow in his footsteps. That’s why he threw himself into scouting and training new talent for the WCOPA. It’s also why he’s friends with many of today’s up-and-comers. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the truth is he played a part—however small—in helping them become total performers, and he did so out of the goodness of his heart.

Jed with my mother Tinna Bonifacio. This was taken a few days before she had a hemorrhagic stroke in June 2016.
Speaking of which, Jed has a really big heart. He’s seen me through a lot of ups and downs. When my mother suffered a stroke, he was one of the first to visit her in the hospital. He even helped us financially—not just once, but twice. What’s more, he didn’t ask for anything in return. That should tell you a lot about what he’s really like away from the klieg lights.

Another thing I want the public to know about Jed is that although he has been hurt many times before, he hasn’t allowed his pain to make him bitter or pessimistic, which I think is admirable. He has his own moments of weakness too, but he bounces back from them easier and faster than I do. That’s why when I’m in a funk, he reminds me to not be such a negatron and to take it easy. 

Jed is an amazing person, which is why it saddens me that he doesn’t get enough recognition. He deserves more because he’s in a league of his own. Lea Salonga once called him “boses na tinubuan ng tao” and I agree. This country is lousy with talent, but I have yet to hear a Filipino singer whose voice has as much emotion, power and range as Jed’s. Even when Jed isn't feeling well—like when he has a sore throat—he’s still so much better than other singers who are perfectly healthy. 

He deserves a much bigger spotlight than he’s getting. Someday I hope to see him on Broadway or filming a movie musical in Hollywood. I don’t know if he’ll ever get that chance, but I do know that I’ll always be supporting him in my own little way, no matter what.

Friday, May 19, 2017

What a difference a decade makes

Davey Langit and his team with Kapamilya execs Roxy Liquigan and Jonathan Manalo at Davey's contract signing.
A lot can happen in ten years. A person can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in that time. No one knows how true that is more than newly-minted Star Music artist Davey Langit.

Yesterday, Davey came full circle when he signed to Star Music a decade after his stint on the ABS-CBN singing competition Pinoy Dream Academy. But getting there really wasn’t easy for the singer-songwriter from Baguio City. It took him a lot of blood, sweat and tears before he was finally ready—emotionally, mentally, musically, physically and even spiritually—to sign that contract.

My mother and I saw firsthand how rocky his journey became after he placed tenth on the show that launched Yeng Constantino’s career. It didn’t give Davey's the boost that he hoped it would, so he fell into a deep depression. At one point, Davey had no job, no money and no place to stay, so he ended up crashing at our house for one night. The following day, he returned to Baguio City and the loving arms of his grandparents, where Davey spent some time thinking about everything that happened to him, and what his next move would be.

He ended up moving to Calamba, Laguna, where he took up Mass Communication at the University of Perpetual Help. He also lined up gigs in bars and clubs. My mother and I helped him by watching as many of those as we could. We never stopped believing in him, not even when we were literally the only ones at his gigs. We had an unshakeable belief that someday he would get the recognition he deserved. There were times when Davey thought about quitting the business altogether, but we encouraged him to keep writing songs.

Watch this video of Davey singing an original song called “Pwede Bang Ako Na Lang” at Conspiracy in 2008 and tell me our belief in him was misplaced:

When Davey’s “The Selfie Song” became a hit four years ago, we were so thrilled. We cheered him on when he entered his compositions “No Girlfriend Since Break” and “Paratingin Mo Na Siya” in the 2014 and 2015 Philippine Popular Music Festival, respectively. We were among the first to listen to both songs, and we believed they were strong enough to bring Davey that much closer to stardom. Sure enough, the former ended up in the top twelve and the latter bagged second place. 

When he won the top prize in last year’s Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs songwriting competition with “Dalawang Letra,” my mother and I were beside ourselves with joy. After all those years Davey spent struggling to get his music heard, his time had come at last.

Ten years ago, Davey was lost and flailing after an ill-fated reality show stint. But now he’s back and better than ever. He’s an amazing singer, but I think his real strength is his songwriting—his ability to combine well-crafted lyrics and irresistible melodies. Thank you, Star Music, for taking a chance on our guy!

When Davey had a hard time getting people to watch his gigs, my mother and I were there for him.
Congratulations, Davey. What a difference a decade makes, indeed.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hearts of gold

My mother Tinna Bonifacio of StarStudio with KathNiel at a mall show last April 2.
About a month or so ago, my mother Tinna Bonifacio—StarStudio magazine’s Senior Editor, who’s recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke she had last June—received a visit from my Filipino-British best friend Tim Macardle and his mother Alma Macardle-Money. We spent hours catching up over pizza and Tita Alma’s pasalubong for me and my mother (she arrived in Manila from the UK a few days before their visit).

As they were getting ready to leave, Tita Alma invited me and my mother to go to the mall with her and Tim. “Let’s have lunch and watch a movie,” she suggested.

Since my mother’s speech therapist had said that it would be good for her to get out of the house more often, I agreed to ask my Lola Bu for permission to take my mother on a trip to the mall. So the following day, the five of us (me, my grandmother, my mother, Tim and Tita Alma) had lunch at Bigoli, an Italian restaurant at TriNoma. Afterwards, we watched the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, which starred Emma Watson as Belle.

L-R: Tim Macardle, me, my mother, my Lola Bu Bonifacio and Tim's mother Tita Alma Macardle-Money.
As we were filing into TriNoma Cinema 7, Tim told me that Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla had a show at the TriNoma Activity Center that same day. “I saw a poster back there that said they’d be here later, around four o’clock. I think they’re going to promote their new movie or something.” 

The wheels in my head started turning. Months ago, KathNiel helped our family settle my mother’s bill at St. Luke’s QC, but they hadn’t seen her since before they went to Spain to shoot Barcelona: A Love Untold. I thought it would be nice for them to see her again because they played a part in her recovery. Apparently my mother thought so too, because when I asked her if she wanted to watch the KathNiel mall show after watching Beauty and the Beast, she nodded.

“Gusto ko magpasalamat sa kanilang dalawa,” she said, haltingly but clearly.

After we left the movie theater, I wheeled my mother into an elevator and down to the first floor, with my grandmother, Tim and Tita Alma in tow. The crowd got thicker as we neared the TriNoma Activity Center, but thankfully, once people realized my mother was in a wheelchair, they scrambled to let us pass. I went right up to the backstage entrance and talked to the burly man standing guard there. He almost didn’t let us in, but caved when I showed him my mother’s ABS-CBN access card and explained our situation. He and another guard even escorted us to a spot near the stage, which they said would afford my mother a great view of the show and the backstage goings-on.

We had barely settled into our spot when a bunch of our colleagues from ABS-CBN approached us, one after another, to hug my mother and exclaim how glad they were to see her up and about. Sir Mico del Rosario of Star Cinema even instructed his staff to make sure that my mother would get to see and talk to Kathryn and Daniel. (Thank you, Sir Mico!)

I was able to duck into the artists’ holding area, where the cast of Can’t Help Falling in Love—Devon Seron, my former Star Magic Workshops classmate Hannah Ledesma, and KathNiel, of course—all greeted me with enthusiastic handshakes and hugs. When I told Kathryn that my mother was there and wanted to see her and her mister, she said, “Nandiyan pala si Tita Tinna? Sige, puntahan ko siya mamaya. Promise.”

If there’s anything people should know about the Queen of Hearts, it’s that Kathryn is a woman of her word. Just before she hit the stage, she stopped to say hello to my mother, give her a quick hug and pose for a photo with her, which you can check out below.

Kathryn Bernardo with my mother, aka the woman whose life she helped save.
While Kathryn was onstage, we were approached by her mother Min Bernardo. I said hi to Tita Min and introduced her to my grandmother, Tim and Tita Alma.

My Lola Bu shook Tita Min’s hand and said, “Naku, thank you very much po sa tulong niyo sa amin nung na-ospital itong si Tinna.”

Tita Min smiled warmly. “You’re welcome po, pero idea po talaga ng anak ko na tumulong sa inyo. Sa kanya po kayo dapat magpasalamat.”

That’s true—at last year’s Oishi Snacktacular, Kathryn pulled me aside and asked for an update on my mother’s condition. At the time, she was still in the Neuro Critical Care Unit of St. Luke’s QC, so that’s what I said to Kathryn. She then whispered something into her mother’s ear. The next thing I knew, Tita Min was pressing a check into my hand. I was so touched I almost burst into tears right then and there.

Daniel and his family actually came into the picture before Kathryn and Tita Min. Daniel’s Tita Ana Lim read my blog post asking for financial help. She showed it to Tita Karla Estrada, who showed it to her son, who made a donation to my mother’s medical fund without hesitation. (“Wow” doesn't even begin to cover it.)

Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he did that. Daniel has always had a soft spot for my mother because they were both born on April 26. That’s probably why, as soon as Daniel finished singing, he allowed Kathryn to pull him over to my mother, who postively beamed when she saw him. Despite the fact that security was telling him to hurry up, Daniel took his own sweet time talking to my mother.

Years ago, Daniel joked, “Juls, mas mahal ko nanay mo kesa sa 'yo.” Obvious naman eh. Hehe.
I don’t know what he told her, but I didn’t need to know—the huge smile on my mother’s face said it all.

Kathryn and Daniel are being touted as the Philippines' premier love team. In fact, as I write this, they’re being feted at the 2017 Box Office Entertainment Awards. They were named Box Office King and Queen for Barcelona: A Love Untold. I do think they deserve those titles, especially since their latest movie, the aforementioned Can’t Help Falling in Love, grossed P300 million in 24 days.

My mother and I have known Kathryn and Daniel since before they were onscreen partners. But given the success they’ve had, OK lang kung hindi na namin sila maabot. Nasa rurok na kasi sila ng tagumpay. But the fact that Kathryn and Daniel took time to help my mother says a lot about them. It’s nice to know they remained down to earth and kind as their careers soared.

Kath, DJ, thank you very much. Your donations to my mother’s medical fund are partly why I got to spend another Mother’s Day with my mother today. No wonder the KathNiels can’t help falling in love with you—you both have hearts of gold.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A problem in the Pacific

I found this on the Pacific Mall's official Facebook page, located at
I woke up this morning ready and raring to write about the Lucky Big 4’s mall show in Legaspi and the brouhaha that erupted after. But I have to admit that my excitement faded somewhat when I sat down at my laptop, opened Twitter and caught up on what everyone said while I was asleep. I was horrified. The issue has gotten so out of control that even my tweets about a personal problem were misinterpreted as being about it.

Anyway, there’s so much misunderstanding going around that I feel compelled to sort things out in writing. That’s what I do. I write to make sense of my world and things that happen around me. So here goes.

Last night, the Lucky Big 4 performed for a huge crowd at the Pacific Mall in Legaspi. When I saw the RESPECT MAYMAY ENTRATA tagline on the Philippines Trends list, I got concerned. I posted a series of tweets using the tagline, in the hope that the MayWard fans would notice them and tell me what was going on. Eventually one of them messaged me, and we got to talking about the show. Here’s what that fan told me:

I withheld the fan's name because he/she was afraid to be bashed.
I waited for a message from MayWard Official or Maymay Entrata Official, but none came. Then this morning, I was tagged in a post by a MayWard fan. I opened it and this is what I saw:

A MayWard fan named labglaizaredux tagged me in this post by MDaleBarber.
Based on the above messages—and on some of the tweets I received before I fell asleep last night—what really drew the MayWard fans’ ire was the way the host behaved towards Maymay, and that Kisses Delavin did nothing to help her. I don't know if all of them feel that way; maybe some just got mad at the host, some just got mad at Kisses, while others got mad at both.

I then got in touch with some of Kisses' fans and asked for their side of the story. They told me their official statement would suffice, so I’m going to leave it here:

I asked the Kisses Lovers OFC if they had anything else to add, they said this was it.
Here's my take on what happened:

I agree that the host could've done a better job. For one thing, he should've talked to all four teens when they were all onstage together. Even if one of them was standing apart from the others, the host should've made more of an effort to include him or her in the interview. That's what any host worth their salt would've done. Case in point: Recently, I attended a press conference for Gimme 5's new album Sophomore at ABS-CBN. The presscon was hosted by DJ Jhaiho, and he made sure that each member of Gimme 5—Brace Arquiza, Grae Fernandez, Joaquin "Red" Reyes, John Bermundo and Nash Aguas—had a turn to speak. Sometimes, even if a question was put to only one member, DJ Jhaiho would ask another member for their two cents. He wanted to be sure none of them would feel left out. How's that for responsible hosting? As a host, it's your job to make sure all your guests are actively participating in your show. Call their attention if you must.

The host also would've done well to avoid using his spiels to force a moment between two teens in particular. Even if his intention was simply to get Kisses to teach Edward some Bicolano words, her saying "I love you" in Bicolano while facing him could be misconstrued as a romantic gesture on her part. I understand why the host thought that was a good idea—pampakilig ng tao, ganun. But if he knew anything about the Pinoy Big Brother franchise and the fandom, he wouldn't have done such a thing. He would've known that that would put Kisses at risk of bashing. Clearly, he wasn't aware of the possible consequences of his actions.

Had the show featured only Edward and Kisses, or Edward and Maymay, or even Kisses and Yong, it would've been fine to create a moment between the two teens present. But it was a show featuring the Lucky Big 4. The host should've focused on creating moments involving all of them, not just two or three.

I wish the host had made more of an effort to include Maymay. She is the Big Winner of Pinoy Big Brother Lucky 7, after all. I remember when I was in Legaspi for a mall show featuring Ejay Falcon, Nicole Uysiuseng and Robi Domingo (the final three of Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Plus) the host made sure to talk to all three of them when they went onstage together. (That was in 2008, and the venue of the show was the LCC Mall on Penaranda Street.)

As for Kisses, I don't think it's fair to blame her for the host's failings. Her friendship with Maymay notwithstanding, it can be difficult to think clearly when you're onstage and you have a job to do. There's a lot going on up there. Why do you think even supposedly smart women buckle during the Q&A portions of beauty pageants? When you're bathed in klieg lights with people's screams ringing in your ears, sometimes it's all you can do to focus on what you're supposed to be doing, let alone think of other people. That doesn't make you an evil person. In Kisses' case, she was preoccupied because the host was asking her questions and she was obliged to respond. That doesn't make her less of a friend to Maymay.

TL;DR - I wish the host had handled the program better but it wasn't Kisses' fault. If you're looking for someone to blame, blame the host. But please, avoid ad hominem attacks. Point out the man's lapses as a host and leave it at that.

I also want to say something in defense of Kisses' parents. Please don't accuse them of instructing the host to give their daughter preferential treatment at Maymay's expense. Not without concrete proof. And no, a blurry photo of Kisses' mother talking to the host doesn't count as proof.

Lastly, I'd like to remind everyone not to be so vitriolic online. Your idols are friends. In fact, I'll have you know that when I saw them last Tuesday, Kisses and Maymay greeted each other warmly when Maymay arrived at the Star Magic Workshops office. OK na OK sila, so I wish their fans wouldn't hurl invectives at each other, regardless of the circumstances.

ETA: I was tagged in yet another post about this issue an hour or so ago. Here's what it said:

Another fan, who goes by the name toshithub, sent me this.
Again, my thoughts:

Comparing what happened with Bailey May, Franco Rodriguez and Ylona Garcia to what happened with Edward and Kisses is like comparing apples and oranges. They're totally different things. Even if both shows were hosted by the same guy, the circumstances aren't the same. Like it or not, kapag si Kisses ang nagbitaw ng salitang "I love you" kay Edward, kahit pa nasa konteksto ng pagtuturo ng salitang Bicolano sa kanya, iba pa rin ang magiging dating nun. Again, it can be misconstrued as a romantic gesture. That's why that was such a big deal. Besides, this time, if this person's account is to be believed, the host instructed Kisses to teach Edward. Not Edward and Yong, ha. Just Edward. Before, the host reportedly instructed Franco to teach both Bailey and Ylona. See the distinction?

As for the "ang hindi umupo, unggoy" thing, saying that the host said that to get people to sit down is kind of a weak defense, IMO. Why not simply ask people to sit down so those in the back could see? He didn’t have to talk to them that way, did he? I saw a tweet defending the host that said the "unggoy" thing was just a joke. Well, there are jokes and then there are unnecessary jokes. The host could've told people to sit down in a nicer, equally effective way. As a host, you have to watch what you do and say onstage. Anyone who has hosted anything, be it an event or a TV show, knows that you can’t just blurt out whatever you want when you’re up there.

I still believe the host could’ve done a better job. It's his responsibility to make sure that whatever it is he's hosting goes well. He has to be masterful about it (now you know why a host is sometimes called a "master of ceremonies"). He can't afford to be off his game because everything about the show, including the behavior of the guests and the flow of the program, depends on him.

Lastly, I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't employ ad hominem attacks against the show's host. I stuck to criticizing his work, not who he is as a person.

This is the first and last time I'll update this post, because I said everything I wanted to say. Peace.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Making it up to McCoy

I'm glad I saw this on Twitter. Otherwise I would've missed seeing McCoy de Leon work a crowd like nobody's business.
The first time I met McCoy de Leon—he of It’s Showtime and Pinoy Big Brother Lucky 7—I ran away just when I was about to have a photo taken with him. That happened in the summer of 2015, and since then I’ve been eager for a chance to make it up to McCoy. Nahihiya pa rin kasi talaga ako sa ginawa ko, kahit sigurado akong siya mismo hindi na niya naaalala yun.

That chance came today, when I read on Twitter that McCoy would be performing at Ever Gotesco Commonwealth. Since that mall is just two jeepney rides away from my apartment, I decided to go watch McCoy do his thing. It wasn’t until I was speeding down Commonwealth Avenue in a cab that I realized I hadn’t told anyone on McCoy’s team that I was going. I started to panic. I usually make arrangements with an artist’s handler or road manager whenever I go to a mall show to make sure I can get in. But in my haste to get there on time, I forgot to do that today.

Luckily, I didn’t have any trouble getting into the Mall Atrium Area of Ever Gotesco Commonwealth. I took up a position at the foot of the stage while McCoy sang “Hinahanap-hanap Kita” and handed out flowers to some people in the crowd. I’ll say this for McCoy—he’s not an outsize vocalist, but he can carry a tune well enough. I really enjoyed his performance, and judging by the volume of their screams, so did his fans.

McCoy then pulled a girl (apparently she won some sort of contest sponsored by the mall) onstage and serenaded her with “Ako'y Sa 'yo, Ika'y Akin” before giving her an autographed photo and a big bouquet of flowers. Aww.

McCoy: *singing* Fan: "Elisse, pahiram muna nitong Mokya mo kahit sandali lang." Haha!
But if I’m being honest, McCoy’s dance prod was my favorite part of the whole show. Watching him shake his groove thing, I was struck by how much he reminded me of another Pinoy Big Brother alum—my good friend Gerald Anderson. IMHO, they have the same boyish charm and something about the way McCoy dances reminds me so much of Gerald.

Watch him dance to the Chainsmokers' "Closer" below:

But the crowd really went wild when he danced to Bruno Mars' "Versace On the Floor."

Furthermore, McCoy comes across as shy and seemingly unaware of his appeal. Not many people know this, but before he became famous, Gerald used to be the same way. Eventually he came out of his shell and became one of the Kapamilya network’s foremost leading men. I’m sure McCoy can follow in his footsteps. I believe in him and the power of his tandem with my girl Elisse Joson, which will be highlighted in the forthcoming teleserye Kung Kailangan Mo Ako.

After the show, McCoy’s handler Ate Gidget dela Cuesta took me backstage so I could have a photo taken with him. But before that, I had McCoy sign a photo for a fan in the crowd who never stopped screaming for him during the show. I loved her enthusiasm, so I decided to reward her for it. (Girl, if you’re reading this, DM me a photo of you with McCoy’s autograph. I forgot to take one earlier.)

Today I discovered how much McCoy cares about his fans. Not only did he toss his jacket into the crowd so one lucky fan could take it home as a souvenir, but he also said he prefers personalizing autographs whenever possible.

“Ay, teka. Ano pala pangalan nung nagpapapirma nito?” McCoy asked as he scribbled on the photo I handed him. “Gusto ko sana ilagay.”

When I admitted I forgot to ask, he replied, “Sayang. Mas maganda kasi yung dedication kung may pangalan.” He seemed genuinely disappointed, so I told him I’d get the fan’s name next time. I don’t know about you guys, but I think it’s very nice that McCoy cares that much about the autographs he signs. Most artists would just sign their names and walk away, but not him. If he treats his fans that way, I can only imagine how well he treats Elisse.

When my moment finally came, I made sure not to run away. Hehe. I went home happy that I was able to make it up to McCoy. Thanks, man! In case you're reading this, sana next time magkita tayo kasama mo na si Elisse. I'd love to be your third wheel. Haha!

P.S. Check out more photos from Mccoy InvadesEverGotesco on my Instagram @julianmauricio.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A friend like Janella

Janella Salvador Instagrammed this photo of us that day. See my shorts? I made sure to wear pink, her color.
It’s been about a year and nine months since my girl Janella Salvador launched her first record with a performance at the SM Fairview Event Center, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the day I realized that Janella is a special kind of friend—the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.

On the morning of July 31, 2015, I woke up hyperventilating. I had been diagnosed with a mental illness almost two months before, and panic attacks were par for the course. After I'd calmed down somewhat, I decided to do something fun to disperse the dark cloud that settled over me because of that panic attack. So I got dressed and set off for SM Fairview to surprise Janella.

When I arrived and saw that the Event Center was packed, I froze. My pulse picked up speed as I surveyed the crowd. I realize now that I should’ve expected a scene like that, but back then I felt so overwhelmed by the sight and sound of fans brandishing tarpaulins and screaming. I tried to look for someone who could help me get into the Event Center, but my feet felt rooted to the floor.

Luckily, before I could start hyperventilating again, a friend from ABS-CBN saw me hovering near the Event Center entrance with a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. He ushered me backstage, where we stood in a corner and waited for Janella to arrive.

When she did, the crowd’s screams rose several decibels, but this time I barely noticed them. See, one of the best things about Janella is that she has a calming aura. I suppose it’s because she’s a positive person. When she smiles, the whole world—or at least the people around her—can’t help smiling too. The mere sight of her helped me stay calm despite the noise.

I went up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. When she turned around and saw me standing there, her face lit up. “Julian! I didn’t expect to see you here today,” Janella said, throwing her arms around my neck and squeezing. “Thank you for coming, ha?”

I patted her on the back, then released her and said, “Anytime. Now go kill it for me.”

She winked, accepted the mic that a production assistant offered her, then went onstage to even louder screams from the crowd. The show itself went by quickly, and afterwards, Janella invited me to join her and her family for dinner.

En route to the UP Ayala Technohub, Janella and I had a heart-to-heart talk. She asked, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in such a long time. You haven’t been visiting me.”

I steeled myself and told her about my suicide attempt and subsequent diagnosis. A hush fell over everyone in the van as I talked. Afterwards, my eyes were bright with tears and Janella’s hand had found mine in the darkness. In that moment, no words needed to be said.

We had a very delicious dinner (and clowned around at; see the video I embedded above) at one of Janella’s favorite restaurants, after which she and I walked back to her van, arm in arm. Suddenly, the clouds parted and I looked up to see the full moon high in the sky. I nudged her and pointed it out.

“Look at that,” I told Janella. “Did you know na blue moon ngayon?”

“Talaga?” she asked, craning her neck to look at the moon.

I nodded. “Sabi sa movie na Relaks, It’s Just Pag-ibig, yung kasama mo daw sa ilalim ng blue moon, makakasama mo habambuhay. Since ikaw kasama ko ngayon, that means we’ll be friends forever. Right?”

Janella looked at me. I looked at her. Then she hugged me and said, “Of course. Promise yan.”

Her words made me break into a smile that probably outshone the moon that night. Because of my mental illness, I live in fear of being abandoned by those I love most. Janella’s promise of friendship meant a lot to me. Not many people can handle being friends with someone who’s mentally ill. She could’ve distanced herself from me upon learning about my diagnosis, but she didn’t, which says a lot about her character.

No matter what I'm going through, having a friend like Janella makes me feel blessed. I think she's perfect for Dreamscape's Kung Kailangan Mo Ako. Because the way she is as a friend is described in the theme song's lyrics: "At kung kailangan mo ako / Sa oras ng iyong pag-iisa / Kung naninimdim / Asahan mong ako ay darating."
© Jules Explains it All
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