I'm talking about JC Intal and Macky Escalona of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, who popped in at the newsroom one afternoon to say thanks on behalf of their team. For what? For their second place finish (to the UST Tigers) in the recent UAAP games. Rare species, these guys: gracious losers. That's why, even if many in the office are UST alumni and fans, Mssrs. Intal and Escalona still got the girls all a-twitter with their visit.
A few days later it was the San Beda Red Lions team, NCAA basketball champs, that dropped by, ablaze in their red shirts. Then, in one of those strange mash-ups, who'd stroll in after them but the beautiful and statuesque Melanie Marquez, meeting up with the boss on some other matter. Ms. Marquez, if my memory serves me right, starred in a long-ago movie called "Agatona," based on a komiks story about a girl of unusual height who became a basketball player.
There she was, the supermodel finding good company among other vertically-gifted people. As introductions went around, the inimitable Ms. Marquez, ever her kikay self, didn't disappoint. A brand-new Melaniesm came into being that afternoon. Introduced to Sam Ekwe, the Bedan student from Nigeria, Ms. Marquez sweetly said, "So, are you the import?"
Newspapering is a raffish, low-paying and (in the GMA regime) increasingly dangerous profession, but you do get some perks. Meeting "hot, hot namedroppables" (glory to anyone who can tell me who uses that phrase) is one of them. In the course of my work I've met every stripe--pseudo, semi, faux, feeling, as well as the genuine ones--and I'm not even in the Entertainment section, where celebrity-watching IS the job. These aren't chance "hi-hello-goodbye" meetings, too, but sit-down affairs where I (or we, for our Sunday Playtime sessions) get to ask questions.
A few of these encounters I consider precious and significant. Like facing billionaire taipan John Gokongwei on the eve of his 80th birthday, asking him questions like "If Lance hadn't turned out to be well-equipped for the job, would you have given the business to any one of your daughters?" (he said yes), and hearing him say, with a gleam in his eyes, that he was going into philanthropy in his retirement. A week later he gave away P10 billion of his fortune. As long as I live, I will never forget meeting the great John Gokongwei.
Also, getting invited to meet up with National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose (my friend Chris, who was with me at that meeting, has beaten me to blogging about it here), and National Artist-na-dapat Onofre Pagsanghan of Ateneo's famed high school theater troupe Dulaang Sibol.
Who else? Jaime Zobel de Ayala (so courtly and dignified, I felt like a peon talking to him about the newly-refurbished Ayala Museum), Jessica Hagedorn, Maria Ressa, Rick Warren ("The Purpose-Driven Life"), Juvenal Sanso, John Maxwell, Dolphy (another wonderful subject, cracked us up for hours with his funny stories), Lea Salonga, Lou Diamond Philips, Tia Carrere, Jasmine Trias, Monique Wilson, Lisa Macuja--labo-labo na 'to--Alessandra de Rossi and Jay-R (for a Bench underwear shoot, no less--sayang I didn't take my own photos then), Eula Valdes, Agot Isidro, Yul Servo, Bituin Escalante, Gian Magdangal, Franco Laurel, Pinky Amador, Borgy Manotoc, JR Valentin, Floy Quintos, Joey Javier Reyes, Mario O'Hara, the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" Fab 5 (I'll blog soon about my interview with Jai Rodriguez, whom I had to ask, after reports that he dated a female model, "Are you really gay?")...
Some other celebrities who've brightened up the newsroom: Sharon Cuneta (a warm, warm presence; her visit got everybody pouring out of the offices), Boy Abunda, Piolo Pascual with Bea Alonzo and AJ Dee (then promoting the, uh, flop, "Mr. Dreamboy"--Piolo is gorgeous, prettier even than Bea!), Angel Locsin, Mark Herras, a group that included Sarah Geronimo, Christian Bautista, Pops Fernandez (cough), Geneva Cruz (cough cough), Gary Valenciano and Jed Madela for the company Christmas party...
There are two persons I wish I had the chance to meet when they were Sunday Playtime subjects: Kris Aquino and Rosanna Roces. (I was with another paper then.) You never know what these two unflappable women would say, so I imagine that interviewing them would be a blast.
But right now, seriously, I'd gladly give them all up for the chance to meet one person--again: Bob Ong.