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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.
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Feb 20, 2019

EMPRESS SCHUCK was just a child star when we first met her at the presscon of “Nine Mornings”, a movie starring Piolo Pascual in 2002. That was 17 years ago. Now, she just turned 26 years old last Tuesday, February 19, and is already the mom of a 3-year old girl named Athalia.

“Ang bilis nga, e!” she says. “My baby is now going to school in toddler class. She’s growing up so fast.”

She now lives with her baby’s dad, Vino Guingona, who comes from a family of politicians from Zamboanga. “Taga-Zamboanga rin ako and family friends namin sila. We’ve met noong mga bata pa kami but dito lang kami sa Manila nagkakilala nang husto,” she adds. “We now live in Ortigas, but mas madalas siya sa Zamboanga at pauwi-uwi lang dito sa Manila.”

Do they plan to walk down the aisle eventually? “Yes, but pareho kami, ayaw naming magpa-pressure dahil lang maraming nagtatanong, ayaw naming madaliin. As it is, we’re already a family at okay naman kami. Yung kasal, kailangang pagplanuhan at pag-isipan munang mabuti to make sure na for keeps talaga siya.”

After she gave birth, she was able to return back to acting right away. She did movies like “Goyo, Batang Heneral” for TBA Studios and “Kahit Ayaw Mo Na” for Viva Films. She has also finished shooting a new movie with Lito Lapid. “Pero after the elections na yata puedeng ipalabas kasi he’s running for the senate,” she says. “Anak niya ako rito na kinidnap and he’ll do everything to get me back, parang ‘Taken’.”

On TV, she did shows like “Asintado” for ABS-CBN, “Special Tatay” and now, “Hiram na Anak” for GMA. “I don’t have a contract with any company at the momen. Free lancer ako, so I am free to work with any network and with anyone.”

In “Hiram na Anak”, she plays Wena, a department store salesgirl who is naive and gullible. She quickly falls for the charms of Paolo Contis as Benjo, a two-timing seaman who’s also in a relationship with Lauren Young as Dessa. When she gets pregnant, Paolo wouldn’t want to marry her and instead, he wants her to live with him and Lauren in the same house.

“Sa galit ko sa kanila, pareho ko silang nasaksak at yung anak namin, iniwan ko sa mga madre at, eventually, maaampon nina Yasmien Kurdi and Dion Ignacio, not knowing na daughter ito ni Paolo na mortal enemy ni Dion,” adds Empress.
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LITO LAPID admits he owes a lot to Coco Martin and “Ang Probinsyano” in reviving his acting career. “Kilala na ako ngayon ng mga bata, pati yung millennials,” he says. “Kahit saan ako magpunta, ang tawag nila sa’kin, Pinuno, na siyang tawag sa’kin sa ‘Probinsyano’. Dahil din sa show, nagawa ko uli yung stunts na ginagawa ko noong araw sa movies kong ‘Leon Guerrero’. Noong una, akala ko hindi ko na kaya, but si Coco, siya rin ang direktor ng show, sabi sa’kin, i-try mo lang. So ginawa ko, pinag-stunts niya ko sa tren, sa tulay, pinagbaging ako, pinakasakay uli ako sa kabayo, at na-realize ko, kaya ko pa naman pala. Binigyan pa ako ng ka-love team, si Angel Aquino, na nagustuhan naman ng viewers.”

But his character has to be killed recently because he is running for the senate in the May elections. “One week kinunan yung final episodes ko sa show, pati yung death scene ko. Nami-miss ko lahat ng mga kasama ko roon ngayon.”

Will he invite his co-stars there like Angel and Coco to help him in the campaign? “Lahat sila, nagsabing kung kailangan ko sila, sabihin ko lang daw. Gusto ko sana silang makasama sa kampanya, and I’m sure hindi naman sila tatanggi, pero nahihiya rin ako kasi hindi ko naman sila mababayaran. So kung sino na lang ang puede at kusang mag-volunteer later na sasama sa’kin, ganun na lang.”

Before the campaign started, he has also finished a new full length film. “Ang working title ko is ‘Lumang Bakal’, pero tiyak na mapapalitan pa. Maraming nagsa-suggest na gawin na lang Vendetta kasi kilalang-kilala ang vigilante group called Vendetta sa ‘Probinsyano’. The story was inspired by ‘Taken’. I play a retired army officer na ang anak, si Empress Schuck, was kidnapped by bad guys, at bilang ama, gagawin ko ang lahat para mabawi ko ang anak ko.”

Well, if Liam Neeson succeeded in cultivating a new career as an action star in his 60s, there’s no harm for Lito Lapid in trying the same route.  As a public servant, Lito started his career as vice governor of Pampanga in 1992 when the province was badly hit by the Pinatubo eruption. In 1995, he ran as governor and won.

He pushed for the construction of the megadike that saved various towns from lahar and he was governor until 2004 when he ran for the senate and also won. He got a second term and served until 2016. Now, he’s running for another term.

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Feb 19, 2019

DION IGNACIO is now the only male member of Starstruck Batch 1 who plays lead roles. The winner, Mark Herras, now plays villain and supporting roles. Other male batchmates like Rainier Castillo (the first runner up), Christian Esteban and Anton de la Paz, have retired from showbiz, while another one has passed, the late Tyron Perez. It’s the girls who are still more active: Jennylyn Mercado, Katrina Halili, Sheena Halili, Cristine Reyes and Yasmien Kurdi who is now paired with Dion in GMA-7’s new morning drama, “Hiram na Anak”.

“I’m really thankful that after all these years since 2004 nang matapos ang Starstruck 1, naririto pa rin ako,” says Dion at the presscon of “Hiram na Anak”.  “32 na ako ngayon and I’ve always been faithful to GMA-7 kaya naman hindi rin nila ako pinababayaan. Right after ‘Victor Magtanggol’ where I supported Alden Richards, heto at lead role naman ang ibinigay sa’kin dito sa ‘Hiram na Anak’, so I really can’t complain.

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KARLA ESTRADA has three kids in her role as Cindy in “Familia Blondina”, but all with the same dad. In real life, she has four kids, but with different fathers. She admits she has a non-showbiz boyfriend now, but it’s a long distance relationship.

“He’s a businessman based in Colorado, USA and three years na rin kami,” she says. “It’s working naman kahit magkalayo kami, pero kung sakaling sabihin niyang wala na kami, okay rin lang naman. 44 years old na ako, hindi na ako teenager na may kung anu-anong ilusyon about love. Ang layo na ng itinakbo ng buhay ko since Mother Lily launched me as a Regal baby ka-batch sina Sunshine Cruz, Jackie Forster and Shirley Fuentes in the early 90s. Alam ko namang iba ang sitwasyon namin kasi magkalayo nga kami, so walang masyadong expectations. As of now, sa estado ng buhay ko, masaya ako kasi maayos ang mga anak ko, may sarili akong career, so I’m just so happy and I have nothing to wish for kundi puro pasasalamat na lang kay Lord para sa lahat ng blessings. Di na priority ang lovelife, sa totoo lang.”

She’s called Queen Mother by some folks because her son Daniel Padilla is the teen king, but she honestly prefers to be called Comedy Momshie. “Kasi yung Queen Mother, parang ang hirap abutin. E, yung Comedy Momshie, mas feel ko kasi talaga namang masayahin akong tao at natural sa’kin ang pagpapatawa. Mas accessible para sa lahat, especially to those na ang tawag talaga sa akin is Momshie Karla.”

Playing her three kids in “Familia Blondina” are Marco Gallo, Kira Balinger and Xia Vigor. Marco plays John Junior, the eldest son. A discovery of PBB 2016, he was once paired with Kisses Delavin but he decided to go back home to Italy where he was born. He finished “Familia Blondina” before he left. But after just a couple of months, he returned to Manila as he realized that he really loves to act. By coincidence, his return was in time for the release of “Familia Blondina” which he finished shooting before he left yet.

the cast of FAMILIA BLONDINA with direk Jerry Sineneng & producer Dennis Aguirre
Kira Balinger plays Jenny, the second child. Her father is British and they moved to Manila when she was 10. A talent manager saw her while she’s eating ice cream in a mall and took her to ABS-CBN in 2014. Her first big role was as the younger sister of Kim Chiu in “The Story of Us”.

Xia Vigor is 9 years old and also has a British father. She was the big winner in the Mini Me contest of “It’s Showtime” aping Selena Gomez but she gained more fame when she imitated Taylor Swift in “Your Face Sounds Familiar”. She has also appeared in soaps like “Flor de Liz”, “Ang Probinsyano” and “Langit Lupa”.  In “Familia Blondina” that opens in theaters on February 27, she plays the youngest child of Karla Estrada.

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Feb 18, 2019

WHEN ‘HAPPY Death Day’ was shown in 2017, it was surprise hit as it was made for less than $5 million but earned $125 million at the worldwide box office. So it’s not surprising that it now has a sequel, “Happy Death Day 2U”. The movie uses the time loop premise of “Groundhog Day” where things keep on happening over and over again, then added a slasher twist ala-”Scream” and “Halloween”.

It was done with a lot of shameless but witty style and a quirky sense of dark humor that underlines the absurdity of the entire enterprise with many blood and gore scenes and an amusing performance from a newbie actress, Jessica Rothe, who plays the lead role of Tree who gets to prevent her own murder.

The sequel again features Rothe as Tree. It’s meant to squeeze additional bucks from gullible viewers, who certainly won’t be disappointed because the sequel not only retains all the things that worked in the first movie but added some new wacky stuff that, even if you didn’t get to see the original, you will still have fun watching the goofy Part 2 where they once again do the same thing over and over and over again to show that sequels can actually work well.

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YASMIEN KURDI’s soaps are almost always topraters, like “Yagit”, “Sa Piling ni Nanay” and “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” that were all extended beyond their regular runs since they’re all well followed by viewers. She even won the Star best drama actress award last October for her role as an HIV positive victim in “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka”. On top of that, she’s about to graduate from her political science course at the Arellano University where she just successfully defended her thesis. Her graduation rites are scheduled on April 6 at the PICC.

“Nagpaalam na ako sa GMA na hindi ako puede mag-taping on that day kasi nga, graduation ko. Mahirap pagsabayin ang pagiging aktres at ang pag-aaral and pagiging wife and mother all at the same time,” she says. “Hindi birong balansehin ang lahat, but I’m proud of myself and thankful sa awa at tulong ng Diyos, at ng proper time management, nagawa ko namang maitawid ang lahat nang maayos.”

She’s one actress who can truly claim that both her lovelife and career are doing well simultaneously. “I really want to thank my husband, Rey Soldevilla, because he’s been so very supportive. If he didn’t back me up, hindi ko magagawang pagtagumpayan ang pagnanais kong magkaroon ako ng college diploma and also, ituloy ang pagiging artista ko. Bihira nga kaming magkita lately kasi I leave ng 2 AM for my location taping in Pampanga at pag-uwi ko ng bahay the following morning, paalis naman siya dahil may flight siya (Rey is a pilot).”

In “Hiram na Anak”, she plays Miren, the loving wife of Dion Ignacio as Adrian. She works as a midwife and her wish is for them to have their own baby soon. When she finally gets pregnant, as fate would have it, she falls down the stairs and has a miscarriage. They are given a chance to have another baby and they’re so happy, but again, their infant is taken away from them because of a tragic accident caused by Paolo Contis as Benjo, a seaman who’s having an affair with two women, Empress Schuck as Wena and Lauren Young as Dessa.

“Malayo pa ang tatakbuhin ng story from there, as written by our headwriter, Gina Marissa Tagasa,” adds Yasmien. “Lahat ng mothers, makaka-relate dito dahil maraming madadramang eksena concerning moms and daughters. This is under the direction of Gil Tejada na nakasama ko na noon sa ‘Bakekang’ and ‘Sa Piling ni Nanay’ kaya comfortable na ako sa kanya. It’s also nice to work again with Dion Ignacio na ka-batch ko sa Starstruck at huli kong naging leading man in ‘Saan Darating ang Umaga’ ten years ago.”

Doesn’t she mind that “Hiram na Anak” is scheduled in the mornings at 11:30 AM before “Eat Bulaga” when her other shows are topraters in Afternoon Prime? “Sa’kin naman, kahit saang slot nila ako ilagay, okay lang. Excited nga ako kasi first time kong malagay sa umaga and it’s a new challenge for me. Confident naman akong magugustuhan ng morning viewers ang ‘Hiram na Anak’, lalo na nga’t puro magagaling ang mga kasama kong artista rito.”

CAST of HIRAM NA ANAK with legendary scriptwriter Gina Marissa Tagasa
who's celebrating her 40th birthday on February 22, Friday!

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Feb 17, 2019

BOTH KYLINE ALCANTARA and Therese Malvar are happy that their new show, “Inagaw na Bituin”, is off to a good start. It’s pilot week rated very high and trounced its rival in the ratings game.

“Lahat po kami, nagpapasalamat sa mga nanood at sumuporta sa pagsisimula ng aming show,” says Kyline. “It will inspire us to do better in each episode para mas galingan pa ang performance namin in both singing and acting.”

“Ang prayer po namin ngayon is for the show to be able to sustain its good ratings,” adds Therese. “We will not rest on our laurels kundi mas pagbubutihin naming lahat ang trabaho namin para hindi lumipat ang viewers sa ibang shows na katapat namin.”

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JOBERT AUSTRIA gets his biggest break as the leading man of Karla Estrada in the wholesome comedy “Familia Blondina”. He is a regular in the gag show, “Banana Sundae” and also appeared as Coco Martin’s sidekick in “Ang Probinsyano”.  He likewise gained fame as a DJ on DZMM and did other shows before like “Toda Max”, “Havey or Waley” and “The Illegal Wife”.

He went through several rough times, like when a woman suddenly confronted him and presented herself as his real biological mother. This was how he found out that he was just adopted. It disturbed him and really disrupted his life. There was a time it was even reported he tried to end it all by jumping off from the top floor of a hotel but he was persuaded not to do so. He was able to recover and had to undergo rehab from substance abuse.

JOBERT AUSTRIA w/ Karla Estrada, Direk Jerry Sineneng & producer Dennis Aguirre
He says a big to help to him was co-comedian Eric Nicolas, and John Lloyd Cruz, his co-star in the sitcom, “Home Sweetie Home”. He had an estrangement with his wife, Chad, and their son, Myron, but they have since reconciled. He says the experience brought him closer to the Lord.

“Doon ko talaga na-realize mahal ako ng Diyos at hindi ka Niya pababayaan kung lalapit ka sa Kanya,” he says. “Malaking lesson ang nangyari sa’kin kasi it showed me na meron pa palang buhay para sa’kin pagkatapos noon. Since then, nagbagumbuhay na talaga ako.”

He wants to thank Karla Estrada for agreeing to be paired with him in “Familia Blondina”. Karla plays a widow formerly married to an American with a son and two daughters, while he is a widower formerly married to a British wife with two daughters. They meet and fall in love and it becomes a case of yours, mine and ours, with their American and British kids often clashing with each other. Jobert also wants to thank Director Jerry Sineneng and their producer, Dr. Dennis Aguirre, an ophtalmologist who dared to now venture into film production, for giving him the break as a leading man.

Jobert’s two daughters in the movie are played by teen star Chantal Vilela and child star Shane Weinberg. Chantal has an Argentinian father and a Pinay mother. She was born in Argentina and they moved to Manila in 2010. She plays a mean girl in the movie and is also in the digital show “Spirits Reawaken”.

 Shane plays Charlotte in the movie, a child vlogger who she says is “maldita”. She has appeared before in “Maalaala Mo Kaya”, “Ipaglaban Mo” and various TV commercials. Her dad is American and her mom is Pinay.

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MIKA DE LA CRUZ; role in “Kara Mia” is the most difficult one she has ever played. “Mahirap gawin kasi paulit-ulit ang takes to make sure sakto ang sukat namin lagi and perfect yung pag-fit ng mukha ko sa likod ng ulo ni Barbie Forteza,” she says. “Pareho kami lagi ng mga damit na sinusuot ni Barbie rito, pero yung sa’kin, laging yung baligtad, yung likod ng damit ang suot ko. But I accepted the role kahit alam kong mahirap kasi first lead role ko ito.”

Even if they have the same body, they have two different personalities. “Si Barbie yung mabait as Kara, ako yung mas maldita, mas selosa as Mia. We're so happy sa positive reaction ng mga tao sa show. Kitang-kitang inaabangan nila ito sa dami ng memes and ng videos na ginagaya kami ni Barbie. Andami nila talagang paandar! Ha ha ha!”

Last October, she and Kapamilya actor Nash Aguas admitted that they’re going steady. Both she and Barbie, who’s on with Jak Roberto, are both lucky in love and career. What does Nash say about her new show?

“He’s so happy for me, na sa paglipat ko sa GMA from ABS, nabigyan ako ng ganitong lead role. I can feel na we both inspire each other to be better versions of ourselves. Ako, feeling blessed talaga. At this point in my life, I can really say na masaya po ako sa career ko at masaya rin po ako sa lovelife ko. Naging okay ang end sa akin ng past year at ang ganda rin ng pasok for me nitong bagong taon. Sana, magtuloy-tuloy.”

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KARLA ESTRADA is happy to be back on the big screen in the comedy “Familia Blondina” that opens in theaters on February 27 produced by Arctic Sky Entertainment. Although she’s seen regularly in her morning show, “Magandang Buhay”, the last movie Karla did was almost two years ago in “Gandarapido: The Revengers Squad” where she appeared with her own son, Daniel Padilla, and Vice Ganda, which was a mammoth hit. Is she somehow nervous that “Familia Blondina” might not be as big a hit as that one?

“Hindi naman ako ninenerbiyos, mas excited ako,” she says. “I’m very happy with the movie kasi nakakatawa talaga siya. Ang galing ni Director Jerry Sineneng in cooking up scenes na magpapagulong talaga sa viewers sa katatawa. Sa bagay, yung hitsura ko pa lang, nakakatawa na, kasi ang laki-laki ko sa screen. Ha ha ha!”

Karla plays Cindy, a promdi mom who meets an American who takes her to the U.S. where all her kids were born and raised. They are all blonde, which is why the movie’s title is “Familia Blondina”, then she decides to come home to Manila with her kids and meets resistance from them.

“Siempre, hindi sila excited na umuwi sa ating bansa, lalo na nga’t sa probinsiya pa kami titira. Ayun, na-culture shocked sila nang husto, kasi ibang-iba nga rito sa Pinas kaysa sa Tate. Doon magsisimula ang maraming eksena ng katatawanan. Kapag pinanonood nyo, matatawa talaga kayo kasi, pati ako, natatawa ako sa mga riot na eksenang pinaggagagawa namin.”

About her son Daniel Padilla, Karla dimisses rumors that he has broken up with Kathryn Bernardo because Kathryn has unfollowed him in social media. “Naku, tigilan na nga yang mga ganyan. Sinabi na ni Kathryn na nagkamali lang siya ng pindot, e. And a few days before that, natsismis namang nag-propose na raw si Daniel ng marriage sa Japan, na hindi rin naman totoo. Katuwaan lang nila roon. They’re too young to settle down, malayo pa itatakbo ng mga buhay at career nila, so huwag nyong madaliin.”

kira, marco & xia with Chantal Vilela and Shane Weinberg

karla with xia vigor & marco gallo

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