(Above) Sir Jungee answers a question posed by a reporter during the Q&A portion of the the Himig Handog press conference, held last January 31 at the 9501 Executive Lounge in the ABS-CBN compound.
When Jungee Marcelo, 48, found out that his entry in the songwriting competition Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs: Mga Awit at Kwento ng Pusong Pilipino—a midtempo number titled “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat”—would be interpreted by actor-singer Daniel Padilla, 17, his reaction was one for the books.
“Aba’y halos hinimatay ako,” laughs Jungee, a music producer and songwriter best known for writing some of Gary Valenciano’s earliest hits, including “Hataw Na” and “Sa Yahweh Ang Sayaw.” Recently, Jungee penned Zia Quizon’s breakthrough single “Ako Na Lang,” which won big at last year’s Awit Awards. Zia took home the Best Performance by a Female Recording Artist, Best Performance by a New Female Recording Artist, and Song of the Year honors thanks to Jungee’s composition.
Jungee has been around the Himig Handog block before. When the competition was launched by the Kapamilya network in 2000—with the theme Himig Handog sa Bayaning Pilipino—he entered a song titled “Super Pinoy.” It was interpreted by Jolina Magdangal and Quarter to Five, and went on to land in the top 10. A year later, Jungee duplicated that feat when his song “K Naman,” interpreted by Noel Cabangon at Ang Tropang Papuri, cracked the top 10 of JAM: Himig Handog sa Kabataan. When I sat down with Jungee for an exclusive interview after the Himig Handog presscon proper, I couldn’t resist asking him if he felt his prior experience as a Himig Handog finalist gives him an advantage over his younger, less experienced competitors.
“Honestly, I think I’m more scared of them than they are of me,” Jungee says humbly. “Competing with them is scarier. Music is an equalizer kasi. Sa music, everything is fair. Ang laki ng growth ng musicality ng mga bata ngayon. You can see it in people like Marion Aunor, who entered Himig Handog for the first time this year pero nakapasok pa rin siya kasi maganda talaga yung sinulat niyang kanta. I’m also afraid of not being current. May thinking in this industry that you’re only as good as your last hit, so I have to stay current if I want to produce more hits.”
Jungee tries to stay current by going online and checking out web sites like YouTube to see what’s new in the music scene. His students—he teaches hip-hop lessons to various high school and college dance teams—also help him keep abreast of current trends in popular music. “Makikita mo naman kung ano yung sinasayaw nila,” explains Jungee. “I also do a lot of research kasi hindi ka magiging current if you just sit back and rest on your laurels. You have to consciously find ways to do it. Kailangan mong maging current otherwise maiiwan ka.”
Well, cutting a song with Daniel, one of the most sought-after young stars of today, will definitely help Jungee stay current. So when he found out that Star Records had paired him with Daniel, he was excited. Jungee may not have been able to watch The Princess and I—the teleserye that catapulted Daniel and his onscreen partner Kathryn Bernardo to stardom—that often, but he had heard enough about the boy’s success story to know that his song could become a huge hit in Daniel’s hands, even if it didn’t win the grand prize.
Jungee was taking a shower when the idea for “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat” popped into his head. After he recorded a rough demo of it, he played it for his wife Anna, who liked it so much she suggested that he enter it in this year’s Himig Handog. He confesses that when he wrote it, he did so without any particular singer in mind and just had one of his protégés lend his vocals to the track. “Ang iniisip ko lang at the time was kung mabibigyan ng break si Jason, eh di maganda. Pero I entered the competition with no expectations. Kaya nung nakapasok ako, natuwa ako. Naisip ko, ‘Aba, may asim pa pala ako as a songwriter,’ ” he chuckles.
“No expectations” was also Jungee’s mantra when he and Daniel went into a recording studio to cut the version of “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat” that wound up on the Himig Handog album. Jungee had never worked with Daniel before, so he had absolutely zero idea what the boy would be like in the recording studio. Jungee just prepped for the session like he usually does. “I allot two hours talaga for an artist. Sa experience ko, that’s how long it normally takes someone to get a song right. Ready ako na ganun katagal kami aabutin.”
So you can imagine Jungee’s surprise when Daniel’s session lasted only half an hour. No, the busy young actor didn’t cut it short to get to another showbiz commitment on time. The session ended an hour and a half early because it didn’t take Daniel long to nail the song. “Natapos kami after thirty minutes kasi ang ganda na nung pagkakanta niya sa kanta ko,” Jungee recalls. “Honestly, I was blown away by what Daniel did, because the last singer I worked with who managed to record a song that fast was none other than Lea Salonga. Bukod pa doon, Daniel is a very humble soul kahit napaka-talented niya. Paano ka hindi bibilib sa kanya?”
Naturally, Daniel still had to study the song before he went into the booth to record it, but that didn’t take him much time either. According to Jungee, when Daniel and his team arrived at Studio Z, he greeted everyone then sat in a corner, put on a pair of headphones and spent 15 minutes listening to the song. Jungee could see him mouthing the lyrics and tapping out the beat on his knees. Just as Jungee was about to ask if Daniel was ready, the boy stood up, yanked the headphones off and grinned, “Sige po, subukan na natin ito.”
It was after that session that Jungee realized that Daniel is truly an authentic musical talent. A few days before, Jungee listened to Daniel’s debut and liked it, but he wasn’t sure how much Auto-Tune had been used—or if it had even been used at all. But Jungee started singing a different tune after recording “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat” with the boy. “I was really impressed when I heard Daniel sing live,” says Jungee. “Pwede kasing pinaganda lang talaga ang boses niya, pero nung pumasok siya sa booth at narinig ko siya kumanta, my jaw dropped. Lagpas pa sa expectations ko yung ginawa ni Daniel. Dahil sa kanya, nagkaroon ng bagong dimension yung kanta ko. Hindi lang niya basta kinanta. Partida pa yun, kasi ngarag pa siya nung dumating siya sa studio.”
Jungeee says he would love to work with Daniel again soon. “I’m really glad Star Records gave him to me as my interpreter. I’d love to produce a song for him on his next album given the chance.”
Check out the official lyric video of “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat” below, courtesy of Star Records’ official YouTube channel. The lyrics of this song are well-crafted. Tatak Jungee Marcelo talaga.
Here is its official music video produced by students from Ateneo de Manila University. I’m a former Atenean, so I have to say GO ATENEO! Again, video courtesy of Star Records’ official YouTube channel.
Honestly, this song is one of my favorites in the competition because I like that Sir Jungee threw a ukulele into the mix. It gives the song a bright, jaunty feel that heightens the youthfulness of the lyrics and melody. Lalong nakakakilig. Also, y’all know how much I love Daniel. I support all his endeavors even if he teases me most of the time. Hehe. ;)
Going back to Sir Jungee, I first met him in 2010, at a presscon for the Elements Music Camp. Here’s a video of me singing a Soc Villanueva composition titled “Ako” for him and a bunch of other songwriters. Maestro Ryan Cayabyab tried to accompany me on keyboards, but he didn’t really know the song. Oops! Sorry, Mr. C!
What do you think of my performance? Haha! When I look back on that moment now, I can’t believe I had the guts to sing for all those musical heavyweights!
(Above, from left to right) PBB Unlimited Big Winner Slater Young, me, Cornerstone Talent Management Center’s Caress Caballero, and Sam Milby. Cornerstone and Star Magic co-manage Slater and Sam’s careers. Caress often coordinates with Star Magic handlers Nenette Roxas (for Slater) and Lulu Romero (for Sam).
Looking back on my experience at this year’s Star Magic Ball, I can’t help but compare it to the Disney version of Cinderella.
I actually wasn’t supposed to go to the ball this year. Every year, StarStudio sends a team to cover the ball for a feature. Last year, we sent four writers, each of whom was partnered with a photographer. This year, our team was scaled back—we ended up sending just three photographers and one writer. Originally, I was supposed to be one of two writers from StarStudio who was assigned to cover the ball. The other was my Mom, our Senior Associate Editor Tinna Bonifacio. But when the decision to scale back the team was made, it made more sense for the more senior person to join the team. Ergo, I was out.
I tried not to feel too bad about it, because the journalist in me knew that if we could only send one writer, it made more sense for my Mom to go instead of me. She has had almost 30 years of experience covering major events like the Star Magic Ball. But even though my mind knew why, my heart had a harder time accepting it. I was crushed. The moment I heard the news, my thoughts went to the suit I had planned to wear—which was by designer Nat Manilag—and the shoes I bought at Payless TriNoma. Call me shallow, but the thought that those shoes (and the money I spent on them) would be wasted made me tear up.
I tried to cover up my disappointment as best as I could, but even I have to admit I probably didn’t do very well in that department. I went home with what felt like a tennis ball lodged in my throat. For the rest of the night, I tried to keep from crying as I fielded BBM and text messages from my friends, all of whom were shocked and wanted to know why I wasn’t going. I explained the situation to everyone as best I could, but after a while just reading their messages made my heart even more. So I made alternative plans.
I scheduled a songwriting session with Spongecola’s Yael Yuzon, so I would have something else to focus on. (Also, so I could finally finish the song I had been working on at the time. When I write songs, I work best with a co-writer. But I digress.) I was feeling a little better about being unable to go to the ball and I had even begun to accept the reality of it, until I got a Facebook message from Star Magic’s PR manager Ate Thess Gubi around 1:00 AM. She wrote, “Attend ka na ako na bahala sayo :)”
I felt so happy right when I read her message that I wanted to hug my laptop. You see, the reason I love going to the Star Magic Ball (aside from being able to work on a story for StarStudio and provide the fans with photos and updates as the ball is happening) is that it’s one of the few events at which all my friends from Star Magic are together under one roof. I rarely get to spend time with all of them because they’re always busy taping or shooting. So when Ate Thess told me she’d take care of me, I was thrilled. She doesn’t have magic powers, but to me, she was my Fairy Godmother for the night.
To make a long story short, I arrived at the ball in my Nat Manilag suit and Payless shoes, surprising everyone who thought I wasn’t going. I enjoyed spending time with my friends. Here’s more on the 2012 Star Magic Ball from my point of view, this time in photos. (Click on any image to see a larger version.)
(Above) After I changed into my outfit, I let my vanity take over and took photos of myself while I waited for Mom to finish getting ready. To paraphrase the one and only Tyra Banks, “This is my best shot.” Haha! Forgive me for this, I rarely like the way I look in formal wear. I’m a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers kind of guy.
(Above) Mom, in a black Nat Manilag gown, posed with Dar Amul of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs before we left for the ball. Ate Dar was kind enough to do our hair and makeup on such short notice. Thanks, teh! Thanks also to Aiz Domingo and Krish Ramos of ABS-CBN Interactive for referring me to her!
(Above) Slater (in Francis Libiran) and fellow PBB Unlimited alum Divine Smith (in OJ Hofer) worked the red carpet together. I saw Slater first, and after making small talk with him, introduced myself to Divine. Both were nervous because this ball was their first. I advised them both to just relax and savor the moment.
(Above) After last year’s ball at the Peninsula Manila, my girl Jessy Mendiola—who wore a white brocade Nat Manilag gown this year—and I hung out in her room for hours. We didn’t get to do that this year because Mom and I didn’t book a room at the Makati Shangri-La. Oh well, there’s always next year! Right, Jess? ;)
(Above) At the 2010 Star Magic Ball, I saw Jaco Benin and Nel Gomez having an intense conversation at a cocktail table outside the ballroom. Jaco fell silent as I approached, but resumed talking after Nel said, “It’s OK, you can trust him.” This year, I ran into Jaco and Nel just before they hit the red carpet.
(Above) Xian has become more handsome since Jan Enriquez of ABS-CBN Corporate Communications introduced me to him in 2009. This year, he cut a dashing figure at the ball in a Pepsi Herrera suit. This photo was taken during one of the rare moments he left his loveteam partner Kim Chiu’s side that night.
(Above) I ran into Daniel Padilla (in Nat Manilag) and Kathryn Bernardo (in Rhett Eala) near the elevators. DJ high-fived me while I gave Kathryn a hug. I always thought they would make a cute couple, but seeing them in formal wear drove the point home for me. KathNiel went on to stay close to each other the whole night.
(Above) Walang Hanggan star (and my good friend) Julia Montes arrived soon after, garbed in a beautiful crystal-studded Pepsi Herrera gown. The ball was the second formal event in six days for both of us. The first was the debut of Tippy dos Santos, which was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza on August 25.
(Above) Last year’s ball was a hair-raising experience for many of the male Star Magic talents who attended. Two of my favorite people, Aldred Gatchalian and Johan Santos, decided to go the same route. Johan’s hair may be slightly higher than Aldred’s, but in my opinion, they looked equally handsome that night.
(Above) Last year, Yeng Constantino wore a Kenneth Chua creation described by Maven’s Rachelle Que as “an edgy black gown with hardware, softened by the volume of the tulle skirt.” This year, Yeng chose a more feminine Albert Andrada gown. “Para matigil na yung tsismis tungkol sa akin,” she joked.
(Above) While waiting for her turn on the red carpet, Erich Gonzales (in Francis Libiran) and I talked about Suddenly It’s Magic, her upcoming Star Cinema movie with Mario Maurer. Erich and I have always been friends. We understand each other. I guess it’s because we have the same birthday—September 20!
(Above) After I took this photo of Sam Milby and John Prats, they went to the red carpet and were beseiged by reporters. John’s ex-girlfriend Bianca Manalo arrived moments later and saw him being interviewed by a TV crew. She was overheard telling a friend, “Ayan siya, o. First time namin magkita since nag-break kami.”
(Above) I was aware Helga Krapf had been exercising, but I wasn’t prepared for how hot she looked in her Arvie Aquino gown. I almost didn’t recognize her because she had lost so much weight. Having said that, Helga’s weight loss suited her. Her beauty was such that she didn’t need that many accessories.
(Above, from left to right) CJ Navato, Marco Gumabao, Miles Ocampo and Rhap Salazar from the teen sitcom LUV U were among those who comforted me when they learned I might not be at the ball. Naturally, they were thrilled to see me there. BTW, Marco isn’t a Star Magic artist, but he came as Miles’s date.
(Above) Francis Magundayao and Paul Salas of Aryana were seated near the photographers’ area. I don’t know Francis that well yet, so I approached Paul first. He fist-bumped me like he always does, then introduced me to his co-star. Francis seems like a nice kid. His handler is Ana Esguerra, who also handles Enrique Gil.
(Above) Days before the ball, I told singer-songwriter Ericka Villongco that she should take PBB Teen Clash 2010 Big Winner James Reid as her date. When I saw them, I said, “I want full credit for bringing you two together tonight.” James laughed, put an arm around Ericka and said, “You shall have it!”
(Above) After four or five laps around the ballroom, I bumped into Rica Peralejo, who came with her sister Paula (not in photo), a former Star Magic talent who chose to semi-retire from showbiz to study Philosophy and Tourism at UP Diliman. With Rica is ABS-CBN Business Unit Head Ms. Joyce Liquicia.
(Above, from left to right) I always see up-and-comers Joshua Colet (last seen in Oka2kat), Shane Anja Tarun and Phytos Kyriacou around the ABS-CBN compound. We usually get together on Monday evenings, after they’re done with their dance workshop under choreographer Joane Laygo.
(Above) While I was talking to PBB Teen Edition 4 Big Winner Myrtle Sarrosa (who was very excited to see me), my bespren Gerald Anderson walked up to me. I introduced him to Myrtle and took this photo of them together. Captioning this made me realize I forgot to have a photo taken with Ge. Darn.
(Above) Many female stars have brought sexy back (see what I did there?) when dressing for the Star Magic Ball, but few have done so as well as Empress did this year. She smized and worked her Mara Chua gown to perfection when I asked her to pose for my camera, which is how I got this stunning shot. :D
(Above) When Star Power alums Akiko Solon and Monica Sacay (second and third from left) found out I wouldn’t be able to go to the ball, they offered to let me be their date. I was touched by their willingness to do that for me. Here they are with K-La Rivera (extreme left) and Krissel Valdez (extreme right).
(Above) When I chanced upon Tippy dos Santos and Sam Concepcion, I sat down with them and started talking about how much I enjoyed their performances as Tracy Fuentebella and Rock Polotan, respectively, in I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila!. I also thanked Tippy again for inviting me to her debut. Hehe.
(Above) My friendship with Robi Domingo has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, with an unequivocal low point at my first Star Magic Ball in 2009. But now we’re back to being brothers from different mothers. This year, instead of arguing, we spent the ball talking about his future career plans. ;)
(Above) When Vangie Martelle (in Gerswin Qua) and Jeric Dizon (in Dave Ocampo) saw me at the ball, they stopped in their tracks, stared at me open-mouthed, then hugged me so tight I could hardly breathe. To quote David Boreanaz as Angel, “Well, I guess that qualifies as ‘happy to see me.’ ” Aww, haha!
(Above, from left to right) Eslove Briones, Devon Seron and Kyra Custodio are three PBB Teen Clash 2010 alums who are slowly but surely climbing to the top. Eslove and Devon are making waves in the afternoon shows Pintada and Angelito: Ang Bagong Yugto, respectively, while Kyra was last seen on The Princess and I.
(Above) Maja Salvador and I have always been friends, but we became closer this year. She chose her Eric delos Santos gown at the last minute, but she still looked radiant. Days after the ball, I asked her to comment on Coco Martin and Matteo Guidicelli’s reconciliation after last year’s brawl. Her answer? “Good for them.”
(Above) When I talked to my brotha Khalil Ramos for a while, he admitted to being nervous about performing in front of all the guests. I took this photo of him and Sofia Andres, his loveteam partner on The Princess and I (they play Kiko Salamat and Dindi Maghirang, respectively), after she helped me calm him down.
(Above) I took this photo of Joj and Jai Agpangan, PBB Teen Edition 4’s Fourth Teen Big Placer, after Myrtle dragged me over to their table to say hello. I didn’t expect the twins to remember me from when I met them at their first presscon, but they did. They even got up to hug me. Wasn’t that sweet of them? :D
(Above) I bonded with Julia Barretto and Jane Oineza when I visited them at their rehearsals for the cotillon. Now we’re thick as thieves. Recently I discovered that Julia’s Mom Marjorie is the cousin of my grandmother’s cousin Mandy. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry—I still don’t fully understand it myself. Haha!
(Above) I’ve known Michelle Vito for a while (her Mom is so cool), but it wasn’t until the ball that I discovered how nice her Aryana co-star Dominic Roque is. I met him briefly at the Star Magic Games last July 29, but I was too shy to talk to him. Now I’m looking forward to hanging out with Mich and Dom more often! ;)
(Above) My good friend Melissa Ricks on her relationship with PBB Double Up alum Paul Jake Castillo: “I think it’s best to bring someone who means something to you to the ball. We’ve been dating for almost seven months and we’re happy. No pressure, no stress.” I’m so happy for the two of you, Nini! Mwah!
(Above) I only noticed that Kathryn was wearing contact lenses after I took this photo. After my camera’s flash went off, Julia asked to see the photo. “Ang lakas maka-fresh ng camera mo,” she told me. Incidentally, Kathryn said the same thing at The Princess and I thanksgiving party weeks ago.
(Above) I meant to take a nice “gwapo” shot of Daniel and Neil Coleta (left), but they were in a funny mood when I approached them, hence the funny faces. And in case y’all were wondering, yes, that is Kathryn’s hand squeezing Neil’s jaw. The girl behind Neil is Linn Oeymo, who played Maddie on The Princess and I.
(Above) He may have been nervous, but my brotha Khalil never faltered during his performance of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World” with Sam. “I really don’t mind being called ‘Little Sam,’ ” Khalil told me afterwards. “Sobrang magkaboses naman talaga kami. Singing with him is a super honor.”
(Above) Sam accompanied himself and Khalil on the ukulele. Khalil and Sam bumped into each other outside the ballroom an hour before they were due to perform. Sam offered to get the ukulele so they could practice. “I said ‘Wag na, nakakahiya, kantahin na lang natin dito,” and so we practiced a capella,” Khalil says.
Check out my video of their performance below.
And now, back to the photos.
(Above) Sofia with her onscreen sister Bianca Casado, who plays Bianca Maghirang on The Princess and I. When I went to the bar to get a drink, I left my cell phone with them. Good thing Bianca told Sofia to put it in her purse for safekeeping or else I would have lost another BlackBerry. Thank you very much, girls!
(Above) Star Magic’s Grace Yap with my “Fairy Godmother” Ate Thess. They may not have won the Best Dressed Handler or Road Manager award—that honor went to handler Abby Niesta—but I loved their gowns just the same. Ate Thess, in case you’re reading this, I really appreciate what you did for me that night!
(Above) On my way out of the ballroom, I spied KathNiel working it at the Baicapture booth. I stopped long enough to take this photo. When they noticed me, they waited long enough at the booth to pick up their photo, then approached me to say goodbye. They even went up to my Mom and hugged her too! :D
Check out my own Baicapture photos below.
Now for the Jules Explains It All exclusive—sketches of the gowns and suits some of your favorite young stars wore that night.
(Above) DANIEL PADILLA by Nat Manilag
(Above) KATHRYN BERNARDO by Rhett Eala
(Above) PAUL SALAS by Nat Manilag
(Above) ELLA CRUZ by Nat Manilag
(Above) KHALIL RAMOS by Nat Manilag
(Above) JULIA BARRETTO by Nat Manilag
Thanks to Nat and Rhett Eala for these sketches!
In conclusion, although Mom and I had to go home early, I still had fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave one of my shoes behind, and no handsome prince came chasing after me to return it. Maybe next year? ;)
P.S. Follow me on Instagram for more photos from the 2012 Star Magic Ball. My username is JulianMauricio.
Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have become friends with Enrique Gil if the late AJ Perez hadn’t introduced me to him—twice.
The first was at the Rockwell Tent in 2010. ABS-CBN Publishing’s marketing team put together a trade event to introduce their titles to advertisers, and they invited some Kapamilya celebrities, including the Gigger Boys, to perform. When I arrived, AJ introduced me to Enrique backstage. “Do you know him? He’s Enrique, the newest Gigger Boy,” AJ said. That night marked the beginning of our friendship.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011. Once again, AJ, Enrique and I were together at another event, but this was different. AJ passed away following a vehicular accident on April 17, and Enrique and I were among the people who flocked to AJ’s wake. We were there as often as our schedules allowed.
On the second day of AJ’s wake at La Salle Greenhills, there was an intimate mass and tribute spearheaded by his ABS-CBN family. My Mom, StarStudio’s Senior Associate Editor Tinna Bonifacio, and I were seated five pews away from the altar; Enrique and his older brother Javy were standing at the back. Like most of the people there that night, Enrique’s head was bowed as tears streamed freely from his eyes.
After the mass and tribute, Mom and I made our way through the crowd towards the Gil brothers. As the four of us shared memories of AJ, I found myself staring at Enrique’s face. He cried like the rest of us, but he still looked like a matinee idol. Apparently Mom noticed that too. On our way home, she remarked, “It’s sad na this had to happen, but I have a feeling that the biggest beneficiary of AJ’s death, career-wise, will be Quen.” (Quen is Enrique’s nickname.)
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Quen has an actor’s face,” she explained. “His face shows emotion well. And kahit umiiyak na siya, guwapo pa rin siya. I feel those traits will make him an excellent dramatic actor.”
Mom’s prediction eventually came true. Because of his star turns in movies and teleseryes, Enrique became an in-demand endorser, which made him a shoo-in for StarStudio’s list of 12 celebrities we believed would make waves in 2012—a folio that appeared in our April issue. Naturally, I was tapped to write the story on Enrique.
The shoot was held at photographer Edward dela Cuesta’s Quezon City studio. (Incidentally, Edward is married to AJ’s former Star Magic handler Gidget dela Cuesta.) Check out these behind-the-scenes photos I took.
The shoot went very well, but the interview took several days to finish because of Enrique’s tight schedule. I shadowed him during look tests, rehearsals and tapings, but in the end all my efforts paid off.
As I write this, the red carpet premiere of Enrique’s latest movie The Reunion is two days away. I’d like to think AJ is happy for both of us—after all, Enrique and I owe him our friendship. Thanks, man!
If there were ever any doubts that Daniel Padilla is one of today’s most in-demand teen stars, the 2000-strong crowd present at the launch of his debut solo album should have erased them.
As much as I love Daniel, even I had my doubts. The scene that greeted me and my Mom as we approached the SM Skydome last June 4 didn’t bode well for the album launch’s success. There were no long lines and the area around the venue was deathly quiet. I remember turning to my Mom with a stricken expression on my face and saying, “Ma, parang walang tao. Bakit ganun?”
My question was answered when we stepped through the doors of the Skydome. My senses were assaulted by the sight and sound of fans crammed into every available space inside. I literally couldn’t take a step without bumping into someone toting a camera, tarpaulin and copy of Daniel’s album. The atmosphere was electric, to say the least. Everyone was bouncing off the walls. The fans would scream excitedly whenever someone poked their head out from backstage, even if that person wasn’t Daniel. They could hardly wait for the show to begin so the man of the hour could come serenade them all.
Mom and I made our way through the crowd towards one of the marshalls, who ushered us into a fenced-off area near the stage, which he said was reserved for the media and some special guests. But before we took our seats, we ducked backstage to say hi to Daniel. I saw him before he saw me. He looked like a toddler would on Christmas morning. It also seemed to me like the wattage of his grin went up every time he heard the fans roar from his dressing room. He was every bit as stoked and pumped as they were.
As I said in a tweet I posted during the launch, when he finally saw me, he went, “Kuya Julian!” and hugged me. I asked him to sign my copy of his album, which I bought days before at Astroplus SM Megamall. When he was done, Mom and I returned to our seats and the show began moments later. I swear, when Daniel finally hit the stage, it was like a sonic boom rocked the Skydome. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see dust and bits of dirt floating gently to the floor, having been shaken loose from the ceiling by the volume of the fans’ screams.
I stayed in front of the stage during the first half of the show to take photos, but when the noise got to be too much even for me, Mom and I went back to the “safety” of Daniel’s dressing room. Actually, it wasn’t just the noise that scared me. During Daniel’s first few songs, I was crouched in front of the stage with my back to one of the barriers separating the crowd from the stage. When the host, Tambayan 101.9’s DJ Chacha (who is also a friend of mine), called Daniel onstage, the crowd surged toward him and pushed the barrier forward. I almost lost my balance but recovered quickly. The crowd was wild that day, but IMHO they were being wild for a very good reason. ;)
So it was that Mom and I decided to spend the rest of the show backstage, chatting with Daniel’s parents Karla Estrada and Rommel Padilla. We also hung out with some people from Star Records, like Rox Santos, the Over-all Album Producer of Daniel’s album. I also took BTS photos, some of which you can check out below.
I also filmed the interview that some other reporters did with Daniel and his parents when they went backstage after the show. You can watch it below. I went home soon after this interview ended. Daniel bid me goodbye by high-fiving me and saying, “Kuya Julian, maraming maraming salamat talaga sa pagpunta, ha?” Aww. :)
Three days later, I found myself in Daniel’s dressing room for Bandila. He was set to appear on the show’s Ikaw Na! segment with Tito Boy Abunda. His handler, Ate Luz Bagalacsa of Star Magic, had allowed me to do a quick interview with him before he was due in the studio. I asked Ate Luz for that interview because I wanted to give Daniel’s fans something else in addition to whatever I got during his album launch. Luckily, she said yes—and that’s why I have the following video for y’all. ;)
Here’s a photo of Daniel just before he slid into that chair across from Tito Boy. BTW, when Tito Boy saw me on the Bandila set, he joked, “Talagang pumunta ka pa dito, ha!” (Tito Boy has known me since I was a toddler.)
I laughed and said, “Siyempre, Tito Boy, basta para kay Daniel magpupuyat ako!” And I meant it.
That’s it for now, guys. If this post made KathNiel Day happier for y’all, let me know by leaving a comment. :)
P.S. Special thanks to Ate Luz, Joanne Angeles and Zyra Cuenco for helping me make this post possible.
I was a little nervous on the day of the StarStudio photoshoot at Khalil Ramos’s house. We almost got lost on the way there, but we eventually made it after Khalil’s handler Lulu Romero put me in touch with his parents, who gave us more accurate directions.
During a meeting, I brought up the idea of doing a photoshoot at Khalil’s house for our Star Home section. I texted Dong Pilotos, a talent coordinator on Pilipinas Got Talent season three (I was referred to Sir Dong by my pal Jan Enriquez of ABS-CBN’s Corporate Communications Division) and asked him for help with booking the shoot. Dong texted me back a few minutes later, suggesting that I ask Ate Lulu instead, which I did.
My teammates and I piled into a van bound for a quiet village in the south of Manila to do the shoot. When our van finally pulled up in front of the Ramos family home, we were welcomed warmly by Khalil’s parents Lito and Tess, and their shih tzus Boomer and Pucci. Khalil himself ambled out of his bedroom, followed by his younger brother Sam, who was eight years old at the time of the shoot. (He has since turned nine.)
After I made the introductions—I already met Khalil and Tita Tess at an ABS-CBN trade event a while back—we got to work. Our photographer Ria Regino started setting up her equipment while Khalil’s father Lito hid all of their Christmas décor. Because the feature on their house was slated to appear in our February 2012 issue, and the holidays would be long over by the time the magazine hit the stands, we couldn’t have any holiday-themed items in our photos. While all that was happening, Khalil was being prepared by hair and makeup artist Kusie Ho and stylist Em Millan. Meanwhile, Mom and I sat down with his parents, who were only too happy to share stories of what their firstborn was like as a child.
But before anything else, check out this short behind-the-scenes video from the shoot.
I also took a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos with my old digicam. Here they are.
Khalil Joseph Nepomuceno Ramos—Khalil or Kali for short—was born on January 22, 1996. His parents named him after Khalil Gibran, the award-winning artist, poet and writer best known for a collection of prose poetry essays titled The Prophet. Lito chose Khalil’s first name because Khalil the poet received a posthumous award the day Khalil the baby was born. Tess had her heart set on naming their son Michael because she idolized the King of Pop, but Lito vetoed that idea because he felt the name was too common. As a compromise, he let Tess choose Khalil’s second name, and she picked Joseph.
Tess craved santol when she was pregnant with Khalil. “ ‘Di ba dark red yun? So paglabas ni Khalil, ganun din ang kulay ng balat niya. Pero paunti-unti rin naman siya nag-lighten.” She adds that Khalil was a handful when he was little. “Nag-ka-climb pa siya sa wall, sinasabi niya siya daw si Spiderman. Very opposite ng kapatid, si Sam naman super quiet.”
When they were choosing names for their son, they didn’t expect him to become an artist or writer. But even if they had given him different names, he would probably have grown up to be a singer anyway. Lito is musically inclined. He sang in the New Life Alabang church choir when he was younger and admits to being a frustrated singer. There was always music playing in the Ramos house while Khalil was growing up and he absorbed it all like a sponge. Lito passed his love for rock music and bands like Aerosmith and Queen, on to his son, which is why Khalil likes to say his Dad was his first mentor. But that doesn’t mean Tess didn’t have a hand in Khalil’s musical education, because she introduced him to Michael Jackson’s music.
“Yung mga Beethoven, Mozart, yun lang ang music ng Dad ko na tinanggihan ko. ‘Pag pinapakinig niya sa akin pinapalitan ko talaga kasi it’s not for me,” Khalil explains. “Si Michael Jackson naman, idol ko siya even before he died, kasi yung mga ibang ka-age ko nagustuhan lang nila siya after. When I was a kid, yung mga dances niya inaaral ko, every step. I remember pa nung namatay siya, I was sleeping, tapos Mom woke me up and told me, ‘Michael Jackson is dead.’ I turned on the TV agad and I watched CNN. We were really sad kasi biglaan.”
Tess also shares that Khalil came down with a mild case of sibling rivalry when his younger brother was born. “Khalil was our baby for seven years,” Tess explains. “Actually, kinakarga ko pa rin siya kahit malaki na siya. So medyo ang dating ni Sam sa kanya noon, nagseselos siya. Khalil always looked for attention. Siyempre dahil yung baby ang inaalagaan mo, sisingit siya.”
She and Lito fixed that by reassuring Khalil that Sam wasn’t a threat while making sure their firstborn knew his new role as a kuya was important, so he should step up accordingly. Thankfully, Khalil listened and now dotes on his younger brother. Case in point: Sam usually bunks with their parents, but his kuya also lets him sleep in his room sometimes so they can hang. “Naglalatag lang kami ng mattress,” Tess says.
Khalil says his brotherly bond with Sam is strong. “Lagi ko siyang iniinis, but I think that’s natural naman,” he grins. “We’re really close and he’s my playmate talaga. Whenever his best friend is here, they sleep in my room. I would get the chance to play with them, nagkukulitan lang kami and naglalaro ng video games. Recently lang they were here when I got home from work. If I had a sister, I would treat her differently. Girl siya, so siyempre kailangan protective ka.”
Khalil and Sam may not get caught up in sibling rivalry anymore, but not everything about the Ramos siblings has changed. Lito and Tess say both their sons have musical talent, but while Khalil has thrown himself into his showbiz career, Sam is too shy to do anything with his talent, at least for now. But when Khalil was Sam’s age, he already knew he wanted to be a singer and was, in a way, working towards his dream even then. “Sam is not too outgoing. Pinapakanta rin siya sa school, pero nahihiya pa. Si Khalil, noon pa nagpe-perform na siya sa school,” Tess says.
Khalil started singing in church when he was 10 years old and joined his first singing competition three years later, when he was a seventh grader at Colegio San Agustin-Makati. One day, Khalil surprised his family with the news that he had decided to test his mettle as a singer. This was in 2009, two years before he auditioned for Pilipinas Got Talent. “It started in school talaga. He said, ‘Mommy, I’m going to join a singing contest and tomorrow na yun,’ ” recalls Tess. “Lito and I watched. First time namin nakita and shocked kami because of the way he stood onstage, tapos may papikit-pikit pa siya ng mata, parang singer na talaga siya.”
Khalil took home first place honors, much to his parents’ delight and surprise. When he won another school-sponsored singing competition in 2010, Tess noticed that her son was becoming more and more comfortable onstage. “That was second year high school. Ano lang talaga siya, very confident,” she says.
It was that confidence that fueled Khalil’s campaign for the Pilipinas Got Talent season three crown. A part of him wanted to try out for the second season, which was won by Marcelito Po Moy, but he ultimately decided not to because he felt he wasn’t ready then. “I was watching the auditions sa house ng Lola ko in Makati and si Marcelito was shown, first audition niya. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Why not join, sayang yung talent mo.’ Then I saw the three judges, the crowd and yung setup ng auditions, so medyo kinabahan ako. Naisip ko na maybe I’ll try next season na lang.”
Come the open auditions for the show’s third season, a more confident Khalil decided he wanted to go ahead with it. The idea to do so was solely his. “Sabi niya, ‘Mommy I’m going to audition for PGT.’ That’s nationwide, so sabi ko, ‘Are you prepared?’ Sabi niya siya na raw bahala and I can pick him up after na lang.” Tess recalls.
Khalil went to the ABS-CBN compound for a preliminary screening and made the cut. When he sang in front of the show’s judges for the audition that was eventually aired on July 30, 2011, his family and friends were there to support him. “Barkada ko sa school. Yung kasama ko backstage, sina Steven, Mark and JT. Nasa audience na yung iba. Sila talaga yung barkada ko. I’ve been friends with them for ten years. Si Mommy was there rin, pero nanood na lang siya. Friends ko ang sumama sa akin. Before ako umapak sa stage, they encouraged me,” Khalil says.
As the song goes, he got by with a little help from his friends—and Edwin McCain. For his first audition, Khalil performed “I’ll Be,” the same song he did at his first singing competition. It worked for Khalil then and helped him win over the Pilipinas Got Talent judges and viewers years later. Everyone knows the rest of the story, how he survived every round of cuts until he reached the finale, where he placed second to the Maasinhon Trio.
Of the show’s three judges—Ai Ai delas Alas, Freddie M. Garcia aka FMG and Kris Aquino—Khalil found Kris the most intimidating. “Knowing that she’s the sister of the President and Queen of All Media, and she wasn’t there during my first audition, she was replaced by Billy Crawford, one of the hosts, kasi she was sick. Nung semis, kinabahan ako kasi that was the first time I would sing in front of her,” he confesses. “I really wanted to show my best sa kanya and I think it worked out kasi maganda yung comment niya after my performance. She called me the heartthrob of the new generation.”
Throughout it all, Lito was away on business but he kept up with his son’s journey via Skype. “I felt a bit more challenged to make him proud kasi he was in the States then,” says Khalil of his Dad. When he took the Ynares Sports Center stage on the night of the Pilipinas Got Talent finale, he paused before beginning his song and looked for his family in the audience. “When I saw my Mom and brother, na-visualize ko rin my Dad watching, so nung nandun sila parang he’s there na rin. Before the grand finals nakausap ko siya through Skype and he told me to have fun lang.”
Khalil took Lito’s words to heart, so he wasn’t too disappointed about the outcome. “Ang daming magagaling. I’m not underestimating myself naman pero singers kasi are common so yun lang, I just had fun lang. Mas lalo pa akong sumaya nung napasama ako sa top three. I didn’t really expect, I just hoped. If God gives it to me, I’ll be very happy. But if it’s His plan not to, magiging masaya pa rin ako kasi yun yung pinakamalayong narating ko sa life ko.”
Actually, that wasn’t the first time Khalil came really close to a big break but unfortunately failed to clinch it. Unbeknownst to many, he started trying to break into showbiz three years ago, in 2009. “I auditioned for the role of young John Lloyd Cruz sa Imortal but another guy got it. There was also a time na nag-workshop ako and out of fifteen, tatlo kaming napili. Then I was the only guy in our batch to be presented to Star Magic.”
Khalil failed to impress at his go-see with Star Magic head Johnny Manahan, but he got a second chance years later, after the Pilipinas Got Talent finale. “Mr. M recognized me and he compared my profile from before to the one now. He said it’s a good change kasi chubby yung face ko before,” Khalil chuckles. “Siyempre natanggal na yung weight because I went into boxing and other sports.”
Now that his career is on the up and up, thanks largely in part to his role as Kiko Salamat on The Princess and I, it would be understandable if Khalil were to change. But he remains as down-to-earth as ever. He’s still that kid who says he’s an average student yet somehow gets good grades in his Chemistry, Literature and Science classes. “I excel in Chemistry, parang I’m one of the highest sa class,” he says modestly. “I like Chemistry kasi it’s about life. Wherever we are may elements and may atoms. But I’m not a geek, ha. Nakahiligan ko lang yung Chemistry. I’m a geek siguro sa music and sa video games.”
Khalils is like any other teenage boy in the sense that if he’s left to his own devices, he will stay up late, wake up around noon and eat steak three times a day. Also, he’s really into basketball. His favorite NBA team is the Boston Celtics, and his favorite players include Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
“Ever since I was small, I’ve been a Celtics fan talaga,” he shares excitedly. “When I was in Los Angeles in 2009, I bought a flag na Celtics sa store, pero I was walking with it lang kasi wala yata silang plastic bag. My parents were scared kasi sa LA, Lakers fans talaga silang lahat. And siyempre nung naging rival ng Celtics yung Lakers nung 2008 and 2010, I became a bit of a Laker hater.”
Personally, I was thrilled when he talked about being a fan of American Idol season seven winner David Cook, who is also one of my personal heroes. “He’s one of my inspirations talaga. While I was watching him on the show, I was nakatulala lang sa screen. His ‘Billie Jean’ performance was my favorite. Big impact siya sa life ko,” he says. If his fans’ enthusiastic response to his The Princess and I stint is anything to go by, Khalil is to them what David Cook is to him—someone whose talent has inspired them in many ways.
But it’s not only his fans that are impressed by how Khalil brought Kiko to life. Ceres Barrios, one of the senior writers on The Princess and I, says Khalil is a revelation to her. “For a newcomer, I was impressed by his acting skills,” wrote Ceres in a text message to Jules Explains It All. “He used his natural awkwardness to make Kiko’s character work. Magaling siya, to be fair. Na-touch ako sa emotions na pinakita niya sa recital scene. Natural na natural. Hindi pilit. And he can be funny without trying to be.”
That aside, Khalil knows showbiz may not last forever, so he still wants to finish his studies. “I’m planning to take up Information Technology when I go to college. I’m really a computer guy and techie guy,” he explains. However, if Ceres’s assessment of his acting abilities is to be believed, then Khalil doesn’t have to worry about his future in the industry.
After the StarStudio shoot wrapped up, Em, Ria, and I did a quick one-layout shoot of our own with Khalil. The photos below (and the main one above) were shot by Ria exclusively for Jules Explains It All. Thanks, Ria! :)
Belated Happy Khalilnatics Day, guys! This post was the “something” I tweeted about. I hope y’all liked it! ;)
When Mom and I attended the launch of Oishi’s new campaign, we got the surprise of our lives.
For some strange reason, we both thought Kapuso actress Rhian Ramos was the face of said campaign. No one said anything to the contrary, not even Annie Ringor of Bridges Communications, who is one of Mom’s dearest friends. (Tita Annie was also the one who invited us to the launch in the first place.) So it was that Mom and I arrived at the venue—Chef Jessie’s, a restaurant on the first floor of the Rockwell Club in Makati—expecting to interview the controversial female lead of GMA Films’ My Kontrabida Girl. We began to suspect something only when a familiar face walked into the room.
“Oh look, it’s Pia Magalona,” I stage-whispered to Mom as the wife of the Master Rapper was ushered to a seat at the table behind us. “I wonder why she’s here, and alone at that?” I murmured to myself. I’m used to seeing her with any one of her kids in tow, so the sight of her flying solo at Chef Jessie’s was new to me. I decided to ask one of her sons, my good friend Elmo (aka Moe), if he knew what his Mom was doing there. I picked up my cell phone and texted him. Check out a screenshot of our exchange below.
Looking back on those messages, I should have known something was up because of Moe’s replies, especially his first one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mom and I then decided to introduce ourselves to Tita Pia. I won’t lie, I was extremely nervous about doing so. She’s Pia Magalona, for crying out loud. Showbiz royalty and all that. But as it turned out, I needn’t have been, because she was very nice to us. Apparently she and Mom had communicated with each other via text in the past, when Mom booked Moe for a StarStudio photoshoot way back in November 2011. After Tita Pia and Mom finished talking shop, I introduced myself as a friend of Moe’s and explained that I met her son through some common friends. After Mom and I said goodbye to Tita Pia and returned to our table, I realized we forgot to ask Tita Pia why she was there. Ultimately, though, I decided to drop the subject. I just assumed she was there as a blogger or something, because she’s very active on Twitter.
Minutes later, I overheard someone saying that Moe was in the building. I was ready to dismiss it, but paused when my eyes fell on a red and white tarpaulin near the stage that had Oishi’s new tagline—“O, Wow”—on it. I picked up my cell phone again and the text Moe sent at 11:59 AM jumped out at me. I looked quickly from my phone to the tarpaulin and realized that the face of Oishi’s new campaign wasn’t Rhian, but Moe. I swear I have nothing against Rhian, but the realization that I would get to see Moe again made me insanely happy. We don’t get to work with each other often because we belong to different networks, so I cherish any opportunity for me to see him and my other Kapuso friends.
The program finally began when the host, former UAAP courtside reporter Tracy Abad, called on the new Oishi endorser and asked him to say a few words to the press. My ears pricked up when I heard a very familiar voice. At that point, Mom and I shared a knowing glance. We’d know Moe’s voice anywhere, so we weren’t surprised when Moe walked onstage amid clapping and cheering from the audience. OK, so most of that was from me, but can you blame me? I feel proud whenever one of my friends achieves something noteworthy—and I thought having been tapped to endorse one of the country’s top snack food brands counted as such, so I applauded for all I was worth. Check out a short video clip from the program below.
After the program proper, I rushed to the stage to interview Moe and found myself next to him in a crowd that included TV5’s MJ Marfori. MJ and I got to know each other during the Century Tuna Superbods finals night in Boracay the week before, so we took turns grilling Moe on his life and career.
Biases aside, Moe is the perfect person to be the face of Oishi’s new tagline “O, Wow.” He’s excited about a lot of things, so he says that phrase often. One of those things is the fact that he’s set to enroll in the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde soon. “I’m really excited to go to college kasi mga two years na ako hindi pumapasok. I didn’t expect na makakapasok ako sa school na yun kasi ang tagal ko nang wala sa school. Matagal na akong nag-graduate from high school. Fifteen years old pa lang kasi ako when I took entrance exams for college. I’m seventeen now,” he shares. But he admits he still hasn’t decided what to major in. “Yun lang, it’s really hard for me to decide kung anong course kukunin ko. There are so many options kasi, so there’s a chance that I might shift courses pa.”
There’s one thing Moe is sure of: he wants to enjoy college without neglecting his studies. He’s learned a lot about being responsible in the past few months, mainly because he’s been living on his own since November 2011. “There are so many things going on in my life. Mahirap if I throw it all away and party. I can’t just get rid of my responsibilities,” he says.
Moe’s heightened sense of responsibility has helped him do well on the set of his forthcoming movie Just One Summer, in which he will be paired with Julie Anne San Jose once again. Moe and Julie—known to their fans by the couple name JuliElmo—have appeared on TV together before, like in the Kapuso network’s Daldalita. This movie marks their first real big-screen outing together, and what’s more, they’re headlining it. Julie’s role in Tween Academy: Class 0f 2012 was little more than a cameo. (Don’t y’all think Julie deserved more screen time than she got?) Moe had a bigger role in that movie as the introverted and nerdy Enzo, but even so, he was still part of an ensemble cast. In Just One Summer, the JuliElmo loveteam finally takes center stage.
“Of course more pressure pa lalo than before,” Moe says of having to carry the movie. “I know I have to put in more effort in this film, and that means I have to show more dedication, passion and responsibility for my job. Yeah, I’m getting ready for it, kaya sana magustuhan ng mga tao yung movie. They say we’re halfway done. We still have a couple more shooting days to go, expected date should be around May, but I think because of the weather din and everything, it’ll be pushed back to late May or early June.”
When asked about his character, Moe shares, “His dad owns a farm kung saan nag-stay yung family nila before and nakilala niya yung character ni Julie doon, pero sa city na siya lumaki. Now na tumanda na ako, babalik na yung character ko sa farm. For the longest time hindi kami nagkikita, so hindi ko na siya maalala. Pero siya kilalang-kilala pa rin niya ako. It’s like a fresh start for the both of them.”
Moe describes Just One Summer as a heavy drama. “It’s definitely more sophisticated than the last movie I did. It’s one of the heaviest, even the story, when I just read the script, it made me shed tears. That’s how powerful the emotions are and that’s why I really like this film and hopefully nga those who are into drama will watch it. Of course umiyak ako dito, drama nga ito. Pero ganun katindi yung drama dito na kahit hindi ko i-try umiyak, nakakaiyak talaga yung mga eksena.”
Apparently Moe is a Method actor. He drew upon his own emotions and memories to bring his character to life. “For example, kapag may namamatay, siyempre ang kukunan ko nun is from my dad. Or kung may kinaiinisan ako, ganung type naman. It’s still real in my head. Hindi pwede yung kunyari kapag may kinaiinisan ako, tapos yung nasa thought bubble ko is my dad. Iba yung emotion na malalabas ko dun.”
Moe says one of the best things about Just One Summer is that it gave him and Julie the chance to learn from some of the industry’s best. “In this movie, it’s not just JuliElmo. We have Alice Dixson, Cherry Pie Picache, Joel Torre and Tita Gloria Romero. I had scenes with all of them but Tita Gloria because nasa side siya ng character ni Julie, her story. I had scenes with Tita Alice, Tita Cherry Pie and Direk Joel. I learned a lot from them and they have a big role in the movie.”
He admits that his acting is still a work in progress. “It’s ano, eh. Sometimes I’m a hit or miss. Sometimes I get it perfect. But there are little things in the scenes, sometimes nawawala ako. That’s what I need to work on. I can’t choose between acting and music. I really like both. Maybe now put more effort ako in my acting because of Just One Summer. Of course if may chance din for me to do something big sa music, I will. I have to make a comeback din for that. I need to figure out how to balance my time between acting and music.”
After all the other reporters left Chef Jessie’s, Moe sat down with me and Mom. Moe and I talked about random things. Mom asked Moe how he feels about Julie being misquoted in an article recently, and whether or not the JuliElmo loveteam will be affected by what happened. “No, it was just a misunderstanding. Not between me and Julie, kasi she was misquoted nga daw. So now, rather than be confused and everything, I just try to move on. We’re still the same as before,” he says, smiling.
Before we parted ways, Moe signed two Oishi t-shirts, which I’ll give to two lucky fans. Here’s a photo of Moe signing the t-shirts.
And here’s a photo of me and Moe. Hehe.
There are more photos from the launch on my Facebook fan page HERE.
To win one of the t-shirts, just answer this question: What is it about Elmo Magalona that makes you go, “O, Wow!” The two best answers will win the t-shirts. Leave your answer as a comment on this post. Go!
P.S. I would also appreciate it if you guys would let me know what you think of this post. You can do that by leaving a comment. Hint, hint. ;)
Sometime during the last quarter of 2010, I had a quick lunch meeting with Cornerstone’s Caress Caballero to discuss a project. At one point, she booted up her laptop and showed me some photos of a beautiful house. It looked to me like something straight from the pages of Architectural Digest—a carefully put-together blend of glass, metal and wood.
“Kaninong bahay ito?” I asked Caress.
“Sa bago naming alaga, si Slater Young. Taga-Cebu siya,” she replied. “Ganda, ‘di ba?”
I said yes and Caress promised she would introduce me to Slater soon. Weeks passed and my heavy workload at school and work—plus the holidays—forced all thoughts of him and his house from my mind, at least until I was invited by Star Records to attend the press launch of the 3 A.M. band’s self-titled debut album on January 19, 2011. Because I’m friends with the guys in the band, I accepted the invitation.
On the day of the launch, I arrived at the venue and ran into Caress, who was there because 3 A.M. is part of the Cornerstone stable. She took me to a room on the second floor where the band was doing interviews with some other reporters, so I decided to sit on a couch in another corner of the room and just wait for my turn to have face time with them. Caress sat next to me. A few minutes later, a tall, good-looking guy ambled casually into the room and sat on the other side of her. She introduced me to him.
“Friend, ito yung kinukwento ko sa ‘yo na bago naming alaga, yung may magandang bahay sa Cebu,” she said. “Naaalala mo pa ba pangalan niya?”
I froze. I looked quickly from Caress’s face to the guy’s, but try as I might, I just couldn’t, but I did remember her telling me about him and his house before. I decided to be honest with them. “Parang may nakwento ka na nga sa akin noon, pero hindi ko lang talaga maalala yung pangalan niya,” I admitted sheepishly, flashing what I hoped looked like an apologetic smile in the guy’s direction.
Caress laughed. “Slater ang pangalan niya, friend,” she said, placing a hand on the guy’s shoulder.
I smacked my forehead with the heel of my left hand and offered my right hand to the guy. “Oh yeah,” I said, as he shook it. “Slater Young, right? Now I remember.”
We exchanged pleasantries, and I showed him a copy of the January 2011 issue of StarStudio while we talked. Before I left, I had two photos taken with him and Caress. I already tweeted one of them during the season, but you can still check both shots out below.
Months passed—during which I didn’t hear any more about Slater from Caress or anyone else—so imagine my surprise when I tuned in to the Pinoy Big Brother Unlimited kick-off and saw him standing next to three other people, about to enter the Big Brother house for the first time. I may have been thrown for a loop, but I got over my shock fast enough to decide to support Slater. And when the Big Night rolled around, I was among those who jumped for joy when he won.
Anyway, last Sunday Mom and I ran into Slater at Grams Diner, where he met up with his family and some fans after guesting on ASAP 2012 and The Buzz with the Big 4. Luckily, Caress was with him at the time and she led him over to the booth where I was seated with my mother so she could reintroduce us to each other. I didn’t expect Slater would remember me, so I was pleasantly surprised when he sat next to me and exclaimed, “Uy, long time, ah! Parang kelan lang na magkakasama tayo ni Caress! Naaalala ko pa nung nasa White House”—the resto where 3AM’s album launch took place—“tayo. Blue na may stripes na red yung suot ko nun.”
Being the reporters that we are, naturally Mom and I jumped at the chance to ask Slater about his stint in the Big Brother house. Read on to find out what he had to say!
His initial reaction to being proclaimed the Big Winner:
“Ah, grabe! Halos hindi ako makagalaw. Kung napansin mo, obvious na nahihirapan ako lumakad. Parang ang feeling ko was numb yung buong katawan ko, yung parang walang dugo. Yun yung feeling ko at the time.”
How he’s coping with his newfound fame:
“Medyo na-fi-feel ko kanina, pero it’s all so fast pa, grabe. Hindi pa nag-re-register, hindi pa rin nag-si-sink in kung gaano ito kalaki. Para siyang panaginip sa totoo lang.”
On his fans:
“Grabe, sobrang thankful ako sa kanilang lahat.”
On his family and hometown:
“Matagal na rin kaming hindi nagkikita ng family ko, kasi during the whole PBB experience kung matatandaan mo, Christmas they had an emergency and kinailangan nilang umuwi, so hindi ko na sila nakausap. Although nakita ko sila nung concert. Na-miss ko talaga sila. Sa Cebu City lang talaga ako based ever since. Even after I signed with Cornerstone, doon pa rin ako naka-base kasi wala pa naman akong showbiz projects. I miss home talaga, grabe! Ang tagal din since the last time I was there. Itong PBB yung longest stay ko sa Manila, umabot ng 155 days. Pagpasok ko sa PBB, it started off na sa tingin ko hindi supportive masyado yung family ko. Hindi sila 100 percent although OK naman sila, hindi naman sila nagalit or anything. But after a while three weeks OK na.”
Why he wants to join showbiz:
“Back in Cebu I was working. I’m one of the heads kasi sa company namin. There’s my Dad, then me, then my brother. It’s a family business; we’re in construction. I’m a licensed engineer. Ang layo, ano? Ano lang talaga, my whole life kasi construction. Even back in high school construction na talaga ako. Umabot na ako sa point yun na ang gagawin ko my whole life. Tapos ayun, the opportunity to join Cornerstone dumating and gusto ko lang i-try.”
How he ended up with Cornerstone:
“Dahil sa Facebook ni KC Concepcion. Yung kabarkada ko pinsan ni KC. And timing, tinag ako sa isang picture and tinag din si KC, and nakita ni Erickson. He messaged me, ‘Hi, where are you from? I’m from Cornerstone, check out our website.’ Alam kasi niya na from Cebu ako, so sabi niya, ‘I have a show with Sam there.’ So that week, timing lang, when they went there, I met up with them and I talked with them. I talked with my Dad din. Sabi sa akin ng Dad ko, ‘If you really want to do it, sige, suportahan ka namin.’ My Mom was a little ano pa at that time. Kasi nga I was one of the ones leading our company kaya medyo hirap sila to let go. KC naman is an acquaintance lang. Nag-meet lang kaming dalawa at a friend’s party. Yun yung story.”
Cornerstone’s advice before he joined PBB:
“Nakausap ko pa sina Erickson and Sam before ako pumasok. Pareho lang ang advice nila sa akin, eh—just be yourself, kasi nakikita daw nila na bagay ako and yung personality ko sa PBB. I think may nakita si Ericson sa akin na hindi ko alam kung ano. So sabi ko lang, ‘If you think I’m good for PBB, sige, I’ll go audition.’ ”
On where he plans to go from here:
“Before I even joined PBB nasa Cornerstone na ako. Ever since that point, oo, the intention was for me to join showbiz, pero at that point hindi pa masyadong supportive family ko. Pero ngayon na lumabas na ako sa PBB, nakikita ko na yung support nila, kaya mas may gana na ako ngayon to pursue this career. What’s next? I still don’t know. Sa totoo lang, I still don’t know.”
Before we parted ways, Caress exclaimed, “Kailangan nating ulitin yung epic picture natin dati!”
Slater and I also had a photo taken together after.
I do hope he’ll be given a real chance to test his showbiz mettle soon, if you know what I mean. If and when that happens, I’m looking forward to doing an actual interview with him. ;)