Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lifesaver

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.

ISABELA VINZON, KAMP KAWAYAN


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.

MICA BECERRO, FAMILEA



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.

JONA SOQUITE, TEAM SARAH



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.

JEREMY GLINOGA, TEAM SHARON



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.

CONCLUSION

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.
© Jules Explains it All
Maira Gall