a ser chef afternoon


the first thing that caught my eye upon meeting him was his youthful, wrinkle-free skin that belied his age (late fortys?) and his height (he wasn't that tall pala).

it was a sizzling, sunny, sunday afternoon as though summer was upon us once more. but inside the studio where he and his family would be photographed to promote a product, it was bone cold as though we were in antartica. i was early, and so were the crew and the rest of the people behind this shoot. we all prepared for our tasks for the day.

the air was heavy with anticipation. with last minute fuss. some nerve-wracking activities, noises, people moving around: the stylists and the wardrobe staff prepared the clothes that the family would be wearing, ironing them; the make up artist set up his wares in front of the huge mirror; while the photographer and his army of assistants were busy putting up lights and what have you.

ah, welcome to showbiz, where a flurry of activity always precedes the arrival of a star. where an ear-shattering noise is the norm, while silence is never golden. have you noticed how today's biggest stars always want to make a noise, even going as far as unearthing and washing their dirty sheets in public just to gain the people's attention. don't be mad, they're just adhering to the age-old principle in the industry: bad publicity is still publicity.

(luckily, my interviewee for this afternoon is a rara avis. he doesn't talk much about himself and his family. he doesn't call attention to himself. in fact, when i was doing some research about him in preparation for the interview, there was not much about him except his teleserye and other showbiz commitments. about his family? very little. and i admire him for that. he immediately won a soft spot in me. no chos!)

i was seated behind a huge wooden, banquet table that could sit as many as twenty people, going through my notes and observing everything with a keen eye, like a child on his first day at school. with me were the people from the company that hired the actor, two other photographers from god knows where, three others from a public relations company that in turn hired me for that gig, among others. the room was huge, almost like a hall, painted white, bare walls, like a warehouse converted into a studio.

after about half an hour of waiting, the actor, his wife and their two kids arrived, along with his handler. no more, no less. no bodyguards. no gay fridays. no secretaries or publicists in sight.

after a few greetings, some handshakes, their group sat at another table. right next to us. a make-up artist began working on his daughter. his handler approached our table, asked who would be interviewing him. the pr people introduced me, and the handler said the actor would be ready in a few minutes. he just needs to freshen up. i smiled. then panicked.

(i haven't even brushed my teeth -- forgot to bring my small bag of toiletries containing my toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash. i panicked because i just had a late lunch of grilled tuna and sauted vegetables inside the studio. yes, this particular photo shoot had a catered lunch, which was why there was a big banquet table where i was now seated. good thing i had some mint gums. so i decided to chew the minty gum to freshen my breath and spray some perfume.)

after another five minutes, the handler returned and asked for the questions. since there was no time to jot all the questions on another sheet of paper, i decided to just give him the paper where i printed the questions, with a few more last minute additions coming from the company executives that i wrote during lunch. i was concerned the actor might not like it. or he might not be able to read my handwriting. but thankfully, there was no complaint.

then it was interview time.

the pr people introduced me to the actor. of course i already knew who he was even if i haven't seen his popular daytime soap and a few of his movies -- richard yap, or more popularly known as ser chief because that's how his nanny (who became his wife in the series, played with aplomb by luminous actress jodi sta maria) calls him on the teleserye titled "be careful with my heart" that has a million or so followers here and abroad.

(at least the waiting time was reasonable, about an hour. when i interviewed a very popular young actor, then at the peak of his career, years ago during the launching of his latest teleserye, i waited for about four hours for my turn to talk to him. there were a number of reporters who had one-on-one interviews with him before me. but it was worth the wait. the young actor, rumored to be spoiled and swell headed, was very nice, humble and sweet. he apologized that i had to wait and that it was already late in the evening, about ten. i said it was alright, i am a vampire. he laughed.)

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aside from his youthful glow and flawless skin, richard yap was very eloquent and spoke english flawlessly. punctuation, verbs, adverbs in their rightful places like dutiful soldiers in a military parade. ah, my editor would love him. no surprise there because he is a degree holder from the de la salle university (if i am not mistaken), and already busy with his businesses when showbusiness beckoned.

his ascent to showbiz was phenomenal. an anomaly, if you like. in an industry that worships the youth and thrives on the young, his was a different story. he was discovered when he was already in his late thirtys and became a household name when he was already in his fortys through "be careful with my heart" that opened a lot of doors for him -- movies, commercials, product endorsements, live shows here and abroad, albums.

he also didn't mind that i had to grill him on some of his answers. i thought being a super busy and very popular actor, he would be snooty. he was not. there was an air of comfort around him. he just made me feel so relaxed, as though i was just talking to my older brother (thought definitely, i looked much older than him even if i were several years younger than him. kutis artista kasi sya.)

after half an hour (i was instructed to limit my interview because he had a very busy schedule ahead), the interview was finished. then he obliged with a picture taking not just with me but with the pr staff who were with us during the interview. all this time, he remained smiling, no trace of annoyance even if there was still a photo shoot that could stretch for hours ahead of him.




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so there.

it turns out that despite his strict, stern persona on the teleserye as father of two, who is raising his children all by himself after his wife died, richard yap in person is as crisp, easy to talk and deal with as the spring air -- breezy, refreshing and relaxing. there was no need to be careful, after all!

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