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."

Monday, April 03, 2017

One "Gil" of a Guy

I love this photo I took of Enrique Gil at the My Ex and Whys blogcon. Gwapo pa rin kahit may sakit!
A few weeks ago, I was at a press conference for an upcoming ABS-CBN show when a colleague told me that My Ex and Whys star Enrique Gil had been asking after my mother’s health. (For those of you who may not know, my mother Tinna Bonifacio, StarStudio magazine’s Senior Editor, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke last June.)

“Nung nakasama namin si Enrique sa isang shoot, humihingi talaga siya ng updates tungkol kay Ms. Tinna,” my colleague said. “Kinukwento pa nga niya sa amin na baguhan pa lang siya, kilala na niya kayong dalawa. Noon pa daw sinusuportahan niyo na siya. Kaya siguro super concerned siya.”

As my colleague talked, I felt a lump the size of a tennis ball lodge itself in my throat—a telltale sign that I was on the verge of tears. Since we were at a press conference, I tried not to cry, although I’m sure my colleague noticed my glossy eyes and trembling lower lip.

I became emotional because I was surprised and touched by Quen’s concern. Although now that I think about it, I should have expected that from him. Quen and I have known each other for years and despite what his detractors say, he’s a very caring guy. When I had my heart broken in 2012, I visited The Princess and I set and hung out with Quen in his tent. He listened to my tale of woe and gave me advice on how to deal.

This photo of me and Enrique was taken after our heart-to-heart talk on the set of The Princess and I.
But since his career took off, we haven’t had many chances to bond like that. Part of me expected our friendship to deteriorate as a result, which is why I was surprised when my colleague told me what Quen said. That was when I realized that I do have a friend for keeps in him. After all, they say someone’s not really your friend if they don’t say good things about you when you’re not around—and he did.

When it came time for the My Ex and Whys bloggers’ conference, I decided to skip it even if I really wanted to see Quen and his perennial onscreen partner Liza Soberano (who also happens to be a good friend of mine). It’s embarrassing to share this with the world, but at the time I didn’t have enough money to commute to ABS-CBN. On the morning of the blogcon, I used my last P200 on adult diapers for my mother. Luckily some friends stepped in to help, which is how I found myself in the 9501 Restaurant’s Chronicle Room at 6:00 PM, waiting for LizQuen.

When Quen arrived with Liza and My Ex and Whys director Cathy Garcia-Molina, I squeezed my way through the crowd to grab a seat on the floor in front of Quen. How he spotted me through all the flashbulbs going off in his face, I don’t know; but he did, and he waved at me.

I waved back and mouthed a hello. He mouthed something in return, but I couldn’t tell what it was, so Quen motioned for me to move closer to the stage. When I did, he whispered, “Usap tayo after this. I want to know how your Mom is doing.”

Long story short, after the blogcon, Quen and I had a quick conversation in one corner while Liza was being interviewed. I brought him up to speed on what happened to my mother, including how her rehabilitation is going. Once again, he listened patiently and gave me great words of advice and comfort. Quen ended the conversation by hugging me and saying, “Jules, I know it’s hard but your Mom needs you. Strong ka naman, eh. Keep going. Remember, andito lang kami, ha?”

On my way home, I thought about Quen. For me, the problem with having celebrities as friends is I’m always petrified they’ll forget about me. After all, they don't say "Out of sight, out of mind" for nothing, right? But Quen proved I should give my friends more credit than that. After all, we hadn’t spoken for months before the blogcon, and yet we picked up right where we left off when we saw each other again.

Quen, in case you’re reading this, I want to let you know how happy I am to know you have my back even if we don’t see each other as often as I’d like. No matter where your career takes you, I hope you’ll stay as kind as you are now. You’re one “Gil” of a guy, and you deserve everything you have now. Thank you for being so concerned about my mother.

Enrique always made sure to accommodate my mother, no matter how packed his schedule was.
From me and my mother, belated happy birthday, Quen. May God bless you more and more!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The real McCoy

McCoy de Leon went on Kapamilya Chat to promote #MMKRegrets.
Well, hello McLisse fans! A few days ago, I promised you a blog post about your guy McCoy de Leon in celebration of his Maalaala Mo Kaya guesting tonight. The story I’m about to share is kind of an embarrassing one, but a promise is a promise, so here goes.

Before anything else, there’s something about me you have to know. I’m rarely attracted to chinito guys. I usually prefer moreno or mestizo guys. When a chinito makes me do a double take, it means he’s something special. Sure enough, when I first saw McCoy on Be Careful With My Heart—he had a recurring role on the show as a student named Iñigo Cabanatan—I didn’t pay him much attention. But when he smiled, I did a double take.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really think McCoy’s best feature is his smile. It looks like it can launch a thousand toothpaste commercials. Also, have you guys noticed the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles? Body language experts say a person who smiles using his whole face is honest and sincere. But I digress.  

Since then I started praying for a chance to work with McCoy so I could meet him. I never did get to work with him, but I did meet him at the 2015 Star Magic Games, which took place at the La Salle Greenhills campus in San Juan that year.

I spent most of my time running around the school, conducting interviews and taking photos. Come noon, Janella Salvador and her handler Ate Gidget dela Cuesta invited me to have lunch with them. Janella and I were deep in conversation as we entered the covered court and sat at a table with Ate Gidget and a few others. I didn’t notice who we were seated with until I looked up—right into a pair of very familiar eyes.

I nearly dropped the glass of iced tea in my hand when I realized whose eyes they were. Thankfully, McCoy didn’t appear to notice I was spazzing out. I don’t think he even knew my name at that point. Remember, I’d never met him before then.

When Janella and I went to the buffet table, I told her in hushed whispers that I thought McCoy was cute. Her reaction? She nearly died laughing. Ate Gidget turned out to be more helpful. She agreed to help me get a photo with him because I was too shy to ask McCoy for one on my own.

After lunch, Ate Gidget gathered some of her alagas—Janella, Jon Lucas, Marlo Mortel and McCoy—for a group photo. When they were done, she grabbed my arm and waved to get McCoy’s attention.

“McCoy, this is Julian. Pa-picture daw siya sa ‘yo,” she told him when he looked our way. I’m sure my face was flaming at that point. When McCoy approached us, my shyness got the better of me and I bolted, muttering something about needing to make a phone call. 

When I caught up with Ate Gidget and Janella outside the covered court, the former gave me a Look and said, “Ano yun? Ba’t ka tumakbo?”

I hung my head as Janella giggled. “Nahiya ako sa kanya, eh. Nagalit ba siya?”

“Hindi, natawa lang.”

Great, I thought to myself. I finally meet McCoy and I make a bad first impression. Way to go, Julian. Arte mo kasi.

I didn’t see McCoy again until the following year, when I attended the 2016 Star Magic Games at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Matandang Balara, Quezon City. Much to my relief, the Hashtags member was merciful enough not to mention that I acted like an idiot the first time we met. I think that says a lot about his character.

McLisse at the #ABSCBNTradeEvent2017. Don't they look good together?
In a previous interview, my girl Elisse Joson opened up about what a good guy McCoy is. “His best traits are being genuine and sincere. Walang plastikan pagdating sa kanya. He’s also very close to his family. He puts them first. It’s too early to say I love him, but I can say I care for him.”

During his Pinoy Big Brother Lucky Season 7 stint, McCoy came across to viewers as a nice guy with a good head on his shoulders—and as the saying goes, he’s the real McCoy. In other words, he’s like that in real life. For that reason, I wholeheartedly approve of the McLisse tandem—and I can’t wait to see them in Dreamscape’s Kung Kailangan Mo Ako!

P.S. McCoy, in case you're reading this, next time hindi na kita tatakbuhan. Elisse, ano masasabi mo sa kaartehan ko? Haha! Best of luck to you both on your upcoming soap.

Photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Entertainment.
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Maira Gall