Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10.15.2006
And now for something really important...
On my way back by overnight bus from a typhoon-ravaged Sorsogon (more about it in a later post), I caught part of the penultimate episode of "Bituing Walang Ningning" on a meal-stop TV. I nearly choked on my bland instant noodles when Angelika dela Cruz began singing "Dito Ba." This was supposed to be her concert showdown with Dorina (Sarah Geronimo), and she was supposed to be incarnating the part played to perfection in the movie by Cherie Gil.
I always have laughing fits whenever I remember "Bituing Walang Ningning," and I say that will all due affection. My mother was a fierce Sharonian, and that rubbed off on me in my high school years. A friend and I watched the movie in a flea-infested, double-feature theater that had to close its doors prematurely due to a jampacked house. Sharon was pregnant with KC while shooting the movie, so what I remember now are the artful ways the director Emmanuel Borlaza employed to cover up her condition. Like making her wear oversize shirts and frilly blouses--as if Sharon needed more bulking up. Like putting a huge lamp shade right in the middle of the frame to obscure her bulge. It was hilarious.
But Cherie--she was fabulous. By the time she played Lavinia Arguelles, she had done "Problem Child," "Manila By Night" and "Oro, Plata, Mata." She had honed her villainous chops in one other Sharon movie, "Sa Hirap at Ginhawa."
In other words, Cherie Gil was a woman when she played Lavinia. An accomplished woman. She had gravitas, a forceful adult assurance that told you she didn't suffer fools gladly. Add to that those shoulder-padded power frocks, her hair teased by spraynet to kingdom come, and lines purred with acid, and Pinoy cinema had itself a true diva. When she sang Air Supply's "I Can Wait Forever" in the movie, you at least forgave Cherie her slender voice. It IS conceivable for a performer of middling-to-no talent to become a so-called icon in the local biz. (Hello, Pops Fernandez.)
But Angelika as the new Lavinia. Now who's the genius behind this casting?
Angelika is famous for... RDL Products. She's pert, pretty and perky in a show-biz kind of way, which means you can count on her to laugh her tinkly laugh whenever she's asked the latest chismis about her, or her latest crushes, or, yes, her very challenging role as the new Cherie Gil in Channel 2's sineserye, otherwise known as the network's latest stab at scraping the bottom of the barrel.
So Angelika is supposed to be playing this high-flying, wildly successful singer who's out to smite her upstart competitor with a glacial stare or, failing that, with the most famous putdown in Pinoy pop culture. I've no idea how that sabuyan ng tubig--or was it basagan ng baso?--played out in the TV version, but I can tell you this. Angelika as Lavinia, at least from what I saw briefly, is nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard, uh, girl.
Yes, girl. She and Sarah Geronimo are just girls, for crying out loud. Why are they being asked to play characters way beyond their age, grasp or comprehension? What are flyweights like them doing in welterweight roles?
Sure, Sharon was also 19 or thereabouts when she played Dorina, as Sarah is now. But look at Sharon then--pregnant by the time she got married, separated a couple of years later-- and look at Sarah or Angelika today, and see if they're not better off playing people nearer their youthful experience or knowledge of the world. Better yet, think of Cherie Gil. Does she ever strike you as someone anyone can copy?
Quite possibly, these gangly ingenues have the massive talent to justify their network's huge investments in them, but we wouldn't know that from the infantile, insipid avenues for expression (I hesitate to say artistic expression) that TV gives them.
Forcing young performers to grow up too fast by dumping on their hands roles and obligations they've no clue at all how to play decently is the best way to kill their talent--if not by misuse, then surely by the jeers that would laugh them out of the marketplace. I mean the thinking marketplace. After all, after having seen Angelika as Lavinia wobble her way through "Dito Ba?" on what was supposed to be her night of nights, what was I to do but agree with my colleague Herbie who, when asked about the sineserye, first swallowed his siomai then harrumphed, "Clash of the Copycats?"
Angelika, wherever you are, sue the casting idiot that got you into this stinky mess. That goes for you too, Sarah girl.