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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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Dec 7, 2019

JULIE ANN SAN JOSE’s hit sold-out recent concert at Solaire Theatre, “Julie Anne Sings the Divas”, will now be shown on GMA-7’s “Sunday Night Box Office” this Sunday night at 9 PM. Don’t miss her powerful vocal pipes as she belts out one song after another, with Arnel Pineda (with whom she did “Bohemian Rhapsody”) and the UP Concert Chorus as her special guests.

Julie, Asia’s Pop Diva, wowed the crowd with her knockout renditions of “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” and the classic “All By Myself”, plus timeless hit songs of Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Adele, Lara Fabian, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, Nicki Minaj, and other top singers, with Maestro Danny Tan as musical director.

And to think she got sick with the flu two days before her concert. She just rested for two whole days and prayed fervently to the Lord to heal and her prayer was answered so she was able to hit all the crazy high notes when she performed before a very appreciative crowd in her concert.

Many celebrities watched her concert and you’ll see them during the show, like “The Clash” judge Christian Bautista, Barbie Forteza and Jak Roberto, Mark Bautista, Winwyn Marquez, Andre Paras, Sam Concepcion, Gladys Guevarra, Chris Tiu, Paolo Valenciano, and Mavy and Cassy Legaspi. Julie Anne continues to host "The Clash Season 2" this Sunday night with Rayver Cruz, Ken Chan and Rita Daniela.
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the Christmas angels and paintings sold at CHILD HAUS CHRISTMAS BAZAAR

MOTHER RICKY REYES has been helping children with the big C for 16 years now through Child Haus and he’s hosting a Christmas party for them this Sunday at the Child Haus building on Agoncillo St., Manila. On top of this, this philanthropist is now helping the moms of cancer patients with their own livelihood program.

“It’s SM Pres. Hans Sy who told me, let’s help them earn on their own,” he says. “Sabi ko, we can teach them livelihood programs so they can have their own dignity at hindi lang nakasandal lang sa donations. So I called all the suppliers I know to help us and now we have the Share the Love in Child Haus Christmas Bazaar.

"Hans Sy gave us the space in SM North Edsa for our store for free. We are selling Christmas decorations, native handbags, sandals, organizers and paintings, all made by the kids and their parents themselves. In the true spirit of the Christmas season, which is all about kindness and compassion, please visit our bazaar as all the proceeds will go to Child Haus and other people in need of a home.”

We visited the bazaar located at the lobby of SM North Edsa Cinema 9 and all the items are sold at very reasonable prices. We got the decorative Angels they sell only for P1,000, which is sold in department stores for triple the price.

Writers Aster Amoyo and Jojo Gabinete bought christmas decors, earrings and sandals which are all cheap compared to other stores. This is really such a bargain so go, visit us, or learn more about it by visiting supermalls.com.

We tell Mother Ricky, a respected gay icon, that he became controversial when he nixed being a representative of the LGBT community and he said “ang mga bakla, huwag nang magbestida at nang di kayo pagtawanan ng tao. Basta ang bakla ay bakla. Ang bakla maski anong gawin niyo, ang bakla ay bakla. Ang bakla, gilingin mo man ‘yan, ang labas niyan baklang hamburger.”

He also said he’s against gay marriages and for this, he was lambasted by some gays who said “sinauna pa ang beliefs niya.”

“Yes, na-bash ako dahil diyan,” he says. “But when I counted kung sino yung mga sumang-ayon sa akin, they’re about 4 million at yung bashers ko, wala pa silang 30, so okay lang. At yung mga sinauna, yun ang talagang pinagtatagal ng panahon. Maski sa antiques, di ba mas valuable yung sinauna kasi doon sa mga ngayon lang dumating at ipinipilit ang opinyon nila?

"Ako, I’ve been in a relationship for 40 plus years na, pero we don’t go out of our way to say, ‘Kailangan naming magpakasal,’ no more. May kasabihan tayo, you never never rock the boat kung okay naman. Kapag maayos siya, go lang. May mga alam nga akong baklang nagpakasal, pero hiwalay na rin ngayon.

"Ba’t kailangan mong ipilit sa ibang tao kung ano ang gusto mo? Pinagugulo mo lang ang mundo. Kung gusto mo talagang respetuhin ka, tumulong ka na lang sa kapwa mo, go and help other people at wag sarili mo lang ang inaalala mo.”

And in this respect, no one can fault Mother Ricky. Just recently, he helped Manay Letty Celi, a writer who’s very ill. He got her and took good care of her in Child Haus and Manay Letty has now regained her health and has gone back home.

Thanks to Mother Ricky who acted as God’s instrument of grace to help heal her and other sick people.
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louise de los reyes with leading man ivan padilla

louise with prince stefan who plays her best friend

LOUISE DE LOS REYES says she’s happy to have moved to Viva. Since she signed up with them, she has appeared in several shows on ABS-CBN and Sari-Sari Channel and she has done three movies: “Para sa Broken Hearted”, “Hanggang Kailan” which was filmed in Japan, and the comedy “Sanggano, Sanggago at Sangguwapo”.

She has now completed her fourth movie, “My Bakit List”, which will open in theaters this coming Wednesday, December 11.

She’s happy with her role as it’s very challenging. “I play Dess, head writer ng isang TV drama who’s down on her luck,” she says. “The TV show I’m writing has poor ratings, I’m the breadwinner in our family and I found out that our house, naipatalo ng father ko sa sugal, then I’m also broken hearted kaya desperate na ako sa buhay.”

She then goes to Ilocos Norte to unwind with her best friend, Brutus, played by Prince Estefan. They get to explore the beauty of the place, including its desert-like sand dunes, the windmills of Narvacan, its beautiful beaches. There, her ex-boyfriend, Ejay, played by Ivan Padilla (last seen in “Maria” with Cristine Reyes and the Cinema One entry “Metamorphosis”), shows up, complicating matters for her.

The movie is directed by Bona Fajardo, who got to highlight the beauty of Bantayan Island in “I Found My Heart in Santa Fe” before and now, Ilocos Norte.

She did some sexy scenes in “Hanggang Kailan” with Xian Lim. Does she also have sexy scene with Ivan this time? “A, wala muna kasi hindi ko naman talaga gustong magpa-sexy. Ayokong madamay ang pamilya ko sa mga ginagawa ko sa showbiz. Kaya nga kahit sa men’s magazines, I refused to do sexy pictorials.

"Saka hindi rin naman kailangan dito sa ‘My Bakit List’ kasi ibang-iba ang kuwento nito. Sa halip na love scenes, what I have with Ivan are sampalan scenes kasi galit na galit ako sa kanya rito for cheating on me.

"Inabot nga ng take 5 yung isang scene na sinasampal ko siya kaya namanhid siguro ang mukha niya. Gusto kasi ni Direk Bona, genuine ang acting namin so tinotoo ko na talaga. Relatable ang characters and story namin sa ‘My Bakit List’ so I’m sure viewers will enjoy watching it.”

When asked who else she’d like to be her leading man, she said it’s John Lloyd Cruz. “We both live in Valle Verde kasi at nakikita ko siya roon at ang baby niya, si Elias. Nung beybing baby pa, he’s so cute and looks like Ellen (Adarna), but now na lumalaki na, mas kamukha na ng ama. But lately, hindi ko na sila nakikita, e.”

She admits she now lives in with her non-showbiz boyfriend who’s an architect-businessman. Does she see herself also having a baby soon?

“Naku, hindi po. I promised my late mother na kasal muna bago baby. As of now, happy lang kami being together for almost a year na. May kanya-kanya na rin kasing family ang mga kapatid ko. Actually, less gastos din. Kasi when I was living alone, lahat, ako. Now, may ka-share ako.

"Bukod sa boyfriend ko, may dalawa pa kaming ibang kasama sa bahay, so bale apat kami. And so far, this kind of setup is working. We already know so much of each other. Ni hindi nga kami nagkakaroon ng mabigat na away kasi mas natatantiya na namin ang isa’t isa. Wala nang pretensions.”

Don’t they have plans of making their relationship more permanent by walking down the altar? “As of now, it’s not in our plans. But siempre, if you’d ask me, siya na talaga ang gusto kong mapangasawa.”

What can she say to conservative haters who bash her for living in? “Guys, magtu-2020 na po. Wala na akong ibang masasabi kasi, in this age, kahit ano naman ang gawin naming mga artisa, may masasabi pa rin sila sa iyo, e. Besides, I’m 27 na, I’m of the right age, hindi naman ako teenager na wala pang muwang sa buhay, so I guess I can now make such decisions for myself.”

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Dec 5, 2019

BEAUTY QUEENS: with Allen Dizon as producer, Gloria Diaz and Director Joel Lamangan

from left to right: allen dizon, nella dizon. winwyn marquez, maxine medina, direk joel lamangan.  seated are gloria diaz and mariz racal

standing left to right: direk joel, albie casino, allen dizon, shido roxas, jim pebanco, marcus madrigal, producer dennis evangelista.  seated are ross pesigan, winwyn marquez, gloria diaz, maxine medina, mariz racal, nella dizon and marie preizer

JOEL LAMANGAN remains to be our busiest actor-director. He’s finishing the movie, “In Between Goodbyes”, for Viva starring Lovi Poe, Marco Gumabao and Tony Labrusca in what he says is a unique love triangle-ghost story.

He plays the lead actor in Direk Joey Reyes’ mini-series about gay friends, “The Jokla Club”, he'll direct a stage musical on "Rajah Sulayman" and he’s now starting the shoot of his own mini-series for iWant streaming, “Beauty Queens”, the story of a family of beauty queens. This is written by Eric Ramos and totally different from the GMA-7 soap which starred Iza Calzado in 2010.

“Beauty Queens” will run for six episodes and each episode centers on a beauty queen in the family. Gloria Diaz heads the cast as Dahlia, who won as Miss Universe in 1969. She has two daughters played by Maxine Medina as Daisy and Winwyn Marquez as Tingting, and one son, Rico, played by Ross Pesigan who she wants to be the president of the university their family owns.

She’s a very controlling mother and pushes both her daughters to be beauty queens like her.  She wants them to also be a Miss Universe, but Maxine ends up as Miss International and Winwyn becomes Miss World First Princess. In the end, it’s Rico who’ll fulfill her dream when he outs himself from the closet as Rica and wins in the Miss Gay Universe pageant.

“Gloria thinks she’s a very loving mother,” adds Joel. “What she doesn’t know is that her domineering attitude is alienating all her kids at wala siyang kasundo sa kanila. The framework of the narative is a dinner she hosts for the 100th birthday celebration of her own mother named Tarcila Rodriguez, the last Carnival Queen of Manila in 1939, to be played by Mariz Racal in the flashbacks.

Tarcila becomes the trophy wife of a senator, played by Rafa Siguion Reyna, who is abusive to her so she commits suicide when Dahlia was only 8 years old. It’s in her honor that the members of Dahlia’s family will reunite and get to reveal their family’s secrets as the series goes on.”

Maxine as Daisy doesn’t really want to join a beauty pageant but was just forced by Gloria. It turns out she really wants to enter the convent to be a nun. Winwyn as Tingting becomes a beauty queen activist in UP (ala-Nelia Sancho) who later marries another activist, Albie Casino, and they join the rebels in the mountains. Ross as Rico is a closet queen who tries to please her mom, studies in the U.S. and later has an affair with his professor, Marcus Madrigal.

When he outed himself, Gloria threw him out of their house. As you can see, each role is a challenging acting piece. Also in the cast are Lander Vera Perez as Gloria’s husband who dies of cardiac arrest on the 10th year of their marriage, Perla Bautista as Gloria’s cousin who becomes her most trusted mayordoma in her home, Jim Pebanco as the friend of Gloria and VP of their university who knows her family’s darkest secrets,

Marie Preizer as a vlogger who becomes Albie’s second wife, Nella Marie Dizon as the young Gloria, Shido Roxas as a barista who becomes Rico-Rica’s lover and Sue Prado as Gloria’s trusted Girl Friday. The series will start taping on December 12 and they expect to finish all episodes by January 18. Producing it are actor Allen Dizon and Dennis Evangelista.

Gloria Diaz is happy to work with Direk Joel Lamangan again. “We’ve done several movies na and we last worked sa GMA-7 in ‘Pamilya Roces’,” she says. “I like ‘Beauty Queens’ kasi in my role as Dahlia, I won as Miss Universe of 1969, which was really the year when I won the title.”

We tell her people are praising her for her effective portrayal of Bea Alonzo’s annoying mother in law in “Unbreakable” and for her great performance in the Netflix series, “Unsatiable”, as Gloria Reyes, a former Miss Universe who becomes a beauty pageant coach who teaches lead star Debbie Ryan how to become a beauty queen.

“They just vibered me and I thought it’s a prank or they made a mistake and I didn’t reply, but I got lots of other text messages and it turned totoo pala,” she says. “Of course, I got kilig na naisip nila ako. It was nice na ninerbyos uli ako kasi hindi na ako ninenerbyos now. I was overwhelmed with the welcome they gave me when I got to their studios in Atlanta, Georgia.  They really made me feel important.”

So would she appear again? “I’m just a guest star. But if they have another season, I don’t know. Netflix has become so busy and I heard a lot of shows are now being made in Atlanta so, I don’t know. But I truly enjoyed myself there as they were all so kind.”

As for Direk Joel, he is just too happy to be neck-deep with work now because this year has been quite a sad one for him. He won several best director awards for “Rainbow’s Sunset” but his lead actors there, Eddie Garcia and Tony Mabesa, both passed this year, and the lead actress, Gloria Romero, is now indisposed so let’s pray for her full healing and let’s pray 2020 will be a much better year for all of us.
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Dec 4, 2019

‘UNBREAKABLE’ is a chick flick about friendship between females, which has been done before in local films like “Moral”, “Sana’y Wala ng Wakas” and “BFF: Best Friends Forever”. But it’s closest peg is actually the 1988 movie with Bette Midler, “Beaches” (also known as “Forever Friends”), about two females who become life long friends, tracing the ups and down in their lives.

There are other notable films in this genre, like “Old Acquaintance” with Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins in 1943, which was successfully remade in 1981 as “Rich and Famous” with Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset, the last movie of Director George Cukor (whose most well loved film for us is “My Fair Lady” with Audrey Hepburn.)

Then there’s “Julia” in 1977 with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, the wacky 1997 comedy “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” with Mia Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, and our personal favorite, “Thelma and Louise” in 1991, with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both giving memorable performances and introducing Brad Pitt.

But the closest peg of “Unbreakable” is really “Beaches”, which was so successful it even had a TV remake starring Idina Menzel in the Midler role. Just like “Beaches”, “Unbreakable” starts on a note of impending doom with someone trying to commit suicide while the rain is falling relentlessly.

This colors everything with an undertone of bittersweet schmaltz. Even the ending is the same, with one of them having a terminal illness and the dying girl leaving her only child to her best friend who never had a child of her own.

Just like “Beaches”, “Unbreakable” is a sentimental melodrama with engineered plot contrivances and manipulative but poignant machinations. They do help forward the story, with plenty of big lachrymal and loud confrontations that aim to tug at your heartstrings, but done inegniously with a few creative tweaks to keep the material fresh.

This is exactly the kind of weepy, overdone “kadramahan” that most local viewers go for, so it’s not at all surprising that “Unbreakable” is a big hit. And it’s undeniable that it works because of Mae Cruz Alviar’s frenetic direction and the bravura performances of lead stars Angelica Panganiban and Bea Alonzo who are both absolutely watchable.

The early parts of the movie where they meet for the first time are treated more like comedy, with Angelica as Deena, the irreverent babaeng bakla who names her boobies as Chestina and Chabelina. She is first seen in a fight with another woman who claims she stole her boyfriend. Bea as Mariel tries to intervene and gets being punched herself. And that is the auspicious start of their lifelong friendship.

Deena lives alone. Her dad is dead and her mom works in Norway, so she is the needy, clingy type of friend who craves for love and attention. Mariel is much stronger as the eldest in their dysfunctional family, with her mom (an underutilized Rosanna Roces) always forgiving her philandering dad (Allan Paule.)  You cannot fault the film for it’s believable character building.

Angelica is alternately funny and pitiful as the charming and free spirit that Deena is, even if you could feel that the film’s focus is really less on her than that of Bea as Mariel, whose role most female viewers will find more relatable. But they do have great chemistry as life long friends.

Just like in “Beaches”, which lacked the spontaneity of life, the BFF’s go through a whole range of tribulations especially manufactured for them (like someone going abroad to opportunely leave her friend with her husband so the two can have a moment of dalliance together).

Yes, even their sharing a common love interest is part of the consructed embroidery to make their relationship as friends even more complicated and colorful for someone to later tell her friend: “You are nothing to me.” 

In the light of the highs and lows in their connection, it’s understandable that the men in their lives (Richard Gutierrez and Ian Veneracion) take second fiddle, but they both do ingratiatingly well in their respective roles. Also giving superb support is Gloria Diaz as the mother in law who’s unexplainably so mean to one friend and so cloyingly sweet with the other.

But eventually, the best friends come to comprehend that the most significant relationship in their lives will always be each other. The ending of “Unbreakable” is on a beautiful stretch of beach and we could almost hear Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings”, the hit theme song of “Beaches”.
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JAPHDOLLS is the latest all girl group to make their fierce and fiery presence felt in the local music scene. Japh comes from the combination of the first two letters of their countries of origin, Japan and Philippines.

Composed of four Japanese-Filipino girls who all sing and dance, they are now all set to stage their first concert, “Japhdolls Fantasy World“, at Music Museum on December 9, 8 PM. Their special guests are the Concert Comedy Queen Ai Ai de las Alas, the rock band called The Crib and Kyline Alcantara.

The Japhdolls are Riyo Nishijima who’s 20 years old, Risa Murayama who’s 20, Reina Minagawa who’s 22  and Ruri Yamamoto who’s 18. They’re a very talented bunch of young performers bursting with so much electric energy when they perform. They’re all high school graduates and currently have no boyfriend.

“Bawal po sa manager namin, si Laura Quizon,” they say. “She wants us to give all our time and attention to our career as we’re just starting.”

Riyo Nishijima was born and raised in Japan near Tokyo. She has a Japanese dad and a Pinay mom. Her parents separated when she was 11 years old and her dad remarried another Pinay with whom she has a half sister. She says her mom and her stepmom are good friends now.

She learned a group of Jap-Pinays is being formed through social media and she sent her audition video two years ago. She was told to come to Manila and undergo training as part of the group. She now speaks Tagalog fluently.

Riza Murayama has a Japanese dad and a Pinay mom. The third of four kids, they’re based here in Manila and just visit her Japanese grandparents in Tokyo every year, She went to a Japanese high school here in Makati and speaks English and Tagalog fluently. She has just finished high school when she heard of Japhdolls being formed and she sent her audition video.

“I really enjoy singing and dancing,” she says. “I do solo song numbers in our group, like ‘Missing You’ and ‘Zombie’.” She admits having had a boyfriend before but now, she follows the advice of their manager to avoid having a lovelife.

Ruri Yamamoto has Japanese blood on the side of her mom and her dad is Filipino. The youngest of four kids, she’s also the youngest in their group at 18. She was born in Malolos, Bulacan and finished high school there.

She loves performing and their manager saw her sing and dance in an event and asked her to audition for Japhdolls. She now enjoys being part of the group. “The crowd is always very appreciative when we perform,” she says.

Reina Minagawa was born in Tokyo to a Japanese dad and Pinay mom. She’s the eldest of two sisters and all her family is still in Japan.

“At first, my parents were scared to let me go on my own here in Manila,” she says. “But they now see that we’re being well taken care of here. All four of us girl live in the same condo in Makati and our manager really take good care of us. We all get along fine and we now treat each other like sisters. When I came here, I didn’t know how to speak Tagalog but tinuruan nila ako.”

The group was formed in 2017 but first, they had to undergo rigid training in singing, dancing and hosting before they were made to record their first single, “Magdamagan”. This was followed by other original songs like “Count Senpai”, “Yamete Kudasai”, “Gumball” and “Makura”.

“Well sing them all in our concert on December 9,” they say. “Plus cover versions of other hit songs na nilagyan namin ng Japanese lyrics.”

They have performed in various mall shows, corporate shows and they last performed at the Miss World Philippines Pageant at the Araneta Coliseum. Their musical styles are mainly RnB and J-Pop and they’re also well known for their distinct fashion style and stage presence.

They have since won the Most Promising All Female Performing Group at the 29th Asia Pacific Excellence Awards. You can get tickets for their concert at Ticketworld, 8891-9999, at Music Museum box office at 8721-0635 and 8721-6726, or Sam Calaca at 0917-7072435.
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FDCP CHair LIZA DINO at the Luna Awards

Liza DIno with CHerie GIl, Max Eigenmann and Raymond Bagatsing

liza dino with QC mayor joy belmonte 

LIZA DINO with her supportive and competent FDCP staff

THE FILM ACADEMY OF THE PHILIPPINES should be thankful to the very hardworking FDCP Chair Liza Dino for boosting and sprucing up their Luna Awards Night which has been so lackluster for the past several years.

Imagine, it’s almost the end of the year before they were able to give out their awards last Saturday night. Liza was very hands on and the awards night really went well, as directed by Ice Seguerra.

We’re glad that they gave special lifetime achievement awards to Mother Lily Monteverde and Director Chito Rono, who are both very deserving. What’s sad is that it’s supposed to be THE industry award, coming from members of the local film industry themselves, but the very denizens it’s supposed to serve are really not in full support of it.

Imagine the president of the Film Academy herself, Vivian Velez, being absent from the awards night (when it’s supposed to be the first FAP Awards night during her term), so it’s Boots Anson Roa who gave the opening speech. And what’s even worse is that in the acting awards, only Daria Ramirez, winner of the best supporting actress trophy for “Signal Rock” (very deserving as she’s really good in the film as the wisecracking mother of Christian Bables), made it on stage to receive her award in person.

The three other winners, Glaiza de Castro as best actress for “Liway”, Daniel Padilla as best actor for the “Hows of Us”, and Arjo Atayde as best supporting actor for “Buy Bust”, are all no shows. How sad, isn’t it? It shows how much the actors really care for and value their so-called industry awards.

The best picture winner is "Goyo, ang Batang Heneral" and best director is Chito Rono for "Signal Rock". Next year, let's see if the FDCP would still support and mount the Luna Awards. If not, here's hoping that FAP can stage their own awards night as successfully as this one handled by the FDCP.
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patricia with husband dr, rob walcher and their two sons

PATRICIA JAVIER bags the crown as Noble Queen of the Universe 2019 in the glittering coronation night held at the Manila Hotel last Sunday night. Patricia was the crowd favorite from the start and she also won several special awards.

Jill Chapman, Mrs. USA West Coast, won as Noble Queen Earth. Anna Robtsun, Mrs. Russia, won as Noble Queen Tourism. Beau Villanueva, Mrs. Australia, won as Noble Queen Globe. Maffi Papin Carrion, Mrs. Philippines Bicol, won as Noble Queen International. The first runner up is Mrs. Ritchell Catt of Guam and 2nd runner up is Sylvia Kim of South Korea. 

Also given special awards in the Most Prominent Women Empowerment category are actresses Sanya Lopez, Ara Mina, Gladys Reyes and Marietta Subong aka Pokwang. Gladys, currently seen in the hit afternoon GMA-7 soap, “Madrasta”, is so pleased with her crown and declared in her acceptance speech:

"Thank you po for this recognition. Dati po, Little Miss Philippines lang po ako pero ngayon, nakakatuwa na kailangan talagang mag-gown ako para sa koronang ito. Feeling ko po, beauty queen na rin ito.”

The Noble Queen finals night took all of six hours, with singer Malou Barry and presidential spokesman turning it into a concert and doing several song numbers to entertain the crowd who are waiting for the results of the pageant night.

Patricia’s husband, the very supportive chiropractor Dr. Rob Walcher, is understandably very proud of his wife and attended the affair with their two sons who are both also proud of their mother.  The next Noble Queen of the Universe will be held in the U.S.A. next year and Patricia is sure to fly there to crown whoever her successor would be.
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Dec 2, 2019

carmina villaroel in SUNOD

carmina with director carlo ledesma

the cast, from left, susan africa, kate alejandrino, krystal brimner, red bustamante, mylene dizon, carmina villaroel, director carlo ledesma, jc santos and the scriptwriter

cast and director with Globe Studios exec Quark Henares

CARMINA VILLAROEL has been playing mainly supporting roles lately, both on film and on TV, so she’s now happy to be playing the lead role once again in the Metro-Manila Filmfest entry, “Sunod”.

“Ang tagal na ng last horror movie ko, ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll 2’ in 1984 where I did the ‘Kulam’ episode,” she says. “Ayoko talaga gumagawa ng horror kasi I feel creepy, but after I read the script of ‘Sunod’, I said, sige, I will do it, kahit na I was still taping ‘Kara Mia’ that time at ayoko nung naglalagari ako sa taping at sa shooting.”

What’s her role in “Sunod”? “I play Olivia, a single mom. Anak ko si Krystal Brimner and when she got sick, I accepted a high paying job in a call center to pay for her medical expenses. It turns out haunted pala yung old building ng call center at may sumusunod-sunod sa aking multo na naapektuhan pati kalagayan ng daughter ko.”

Did they really experience anything spooky while shooting “Sunod”? “Yes, we shot some scenes in the old Quezon Institute na haunted daw talaga. One night, bandang midnight na, biglang nagputukan lahat ng mga ilaw namin. Then at 3 AM naman, yung tiles sa kisame, biglang naglaglagan.

"Someone with a third eye said, pack up na tayo, nagagalit na sila kasi ang ingay natin. So umuwi na lang kami. After that, we’ll offer eggs and prayers at nagpapagpag kami ng asin to ward off daw any evil spirits. Wala namang masama sumunod sa ganung beliefs and okay naman, kasi hindi na naulit yung strange happenings that we experienced after that.

"But nakakatakot talaga yung movie kasi, ako mismo, I feel creepy during the shoot. In one scene, parang nagka-anxiety attack ako at hindi ako makahinga kasi kinikilabutan ako.”

She says “Sunod” is not your typical horror flick filled with jump scares. “This one is more quiet, full of foreboding and dread lang siya. Iba yung atake ng director namin, si Carlo Ledesma. He’s new but I trusted him.”

Carlo Ledesma used to be a host of the sports show “Gameplan” then he moved to Australia and became a filmmaker. His last movie was an acclaimed horror film, “The Tunnel”, done found footage style. Before “Sunod”, he co-wrote the screenplay of the well praised Metro filmfest entry, “Saving Sally”, starring Rhian Ramos.

How does Carmina feel that “Sunod” is just a replacement to the entry of Kris Aquino, “Kampon”? “Well, siempre disappointed kami when we didn’t make it to the first four entries. Nang ma-disqualify yung entry nila, ka-text ko si Ninang Kris, ninang namin siya ni Zoren sa kasal, and she said, sana yung entry nyo ang makuhang kapalit.

"I said, sana magdilang anghel siya. And that’s exactly what happened, so happy kaming lahat. Mabait si Ninang Kris and she even congratulated me nang makapasok kami.”

Supporting Carmina in the movie are Mylene Dizon as her boss in the call center, JC Santos and Kate Alejandrino as her co-workers, Red Bustamante (of “Seklusyon”) as the ghost, Susan Africa as Red’s mother. “Sunod” is the only horror entry in the coming filmfest so it has a good chance of doing well at the box office like other horror entries before it.

Her whole family is elated that she has a filmfest entry. “Very supportive sila, lalo na yung twins namin, sina Mavy and Cassy,” she beams. “Excited sila sa Parade of Stars at sasama raw sila sa akin sa float kasi gusto nila yung ma-experience.”
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‘21 Bridges’ starts with Andre Davis as a 13-year old boy in the funeral of his dad, a New York cop who died in the line of duty. This sequence ends with a breathtaking drone shot that shows hundreds of uniformed cops lined up outside the church who all then give a final salute to their fallen colleague.

We’ve seen numerous drone shots before that have no purpose at all, but this one is fully justified as it stresses the importance and impact of this momentous event in the life of the young Andre.

He’ll also grow up to be a cop, played by Chadwick Boseman of “The Black Panther”. “21 Bridges” is not really a groundbreaking film as we’ve already seen a lot of police-crime dramas, but it works and manages to be quite exciting and entertaining because of the very smart direction and the fine acting that go into it.

Andre is called in to investigate the cold-blooded killing of some cops in a botched robbery job. The criminals are a white guy, Taylor Kitsch (a Canadian actor who used to plays lead roles in movies that flopped like “Battle Ship” and “John Carter”, so he’s now relegated to character roles) and a black guy, Stephan James (another Canadian actor who starred in the highly acclaimed “If Beale Street Could Talk”), both M.E. war veterans.

They are small time thugs who get into a restaurant to steal 30 kilos of cocaine but they find out there’s actually about 100 kilos in it. Soon, so many cops appear to hound them and it’s Taylor who’s trigger happy and kills them all. They manage to get away and Andre is the one assigned to hunt them down.

The leader of the ill-fated cops is J.K. Simmons as Capt. McKenna and he expects Andre to put the killers down once he locates them as he has a history of summarily killing criminals. The killers are in the island of Manhattan so Andre asks that all the 21 bridges going to and from Manhattan be locked down to make sure they cannot escape, hence, the movie’s title.

Andre has a deadline of only four hours to apprehend them and he has to finish the operation before 5 AM when Manhattan starts to wake up. He is given a partner, a single mom, narcotics detective Frankie (Sienna Miller.) He’s reluctant to accept her but she tells him: “You can use me or fight me.”

You can sense that something is wrong with the way the movie treats the thugs with more sympathy. And Andre also feels this and later correctly deduces that some corrupt cops are involved in the drug heist that went bad. He sees the need to keep the suspects alive so they can spit out the secrets that they know, but the other cops are just too eager to quickly liquidate and silence them.

It’s easy to infer that there’s going to be a big twist, but what really gets your full attention is that Director Brian Kirk manages to get us totally invested in Andre and the discoveries he makes about his own colleagues. Andre knows there’s a conspiracy and he is no longer sure who to trust.

As may be expected, the movie is full of action scenes involving face offs, gunfights, car and foot chases and there’s a thrilling sequence inside a subway train, all executed well in this pretty intelligent, no frills action thriller. It’s also fast paced and clocks in at only an hour and a half but riveting all throughout.

Boseman’s performance as the main protagonist is commanding and quite intense, showing he has wider range and can be credible not only in superhero-fantasy flicks. He’s now one of the more successful African-American actors working in Hollywood. He’s adequately supported by everyone, from the cop killers to the double-dealing cops who turn against him and try to bring him down.
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