Saturday, June 1, 2013


Dear Kids (and some of their parents as well):

Almost every day I receive a message in Facebook or Twitter from some restless soul literally craving for a shot at the limelight.

These are unsolicited (and even irksome) messages yearning for a chance to stand in front of the camera and be seen by the imaginary millions thus launching what they deem as a profitable career.  They all seek for that life-changing moment, that split-second opportunity, the Great Golden Chance to be known by the People Who Matter so that The Rest of Mankind can appreciate the Magnificence of their Beauty, the Wealth of their Talents or even their Damn Good Looks.

OK, let it be told at this point that I am exasperated.

I have reached the level of the numb when I read these pleas that verge on the begging just to be given that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an audition.  A great number are kids --- pre-teens or teens --- and some are even adults or over-aged teens --- who still think that a walk-on role in a teleserye taping holds more promise than a two year course in caregiving or midwifery.  

As I said, there are also parents who attach photos or even videos of their children to their Facebook DMs if only attest great success in their genes resulting from cross-pollination.  These are usually three to four minute videos of kids singing Rihanna or Justin Bieber songs ... or worse, yet another juvenile version of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.  

Panginoon kong Lord, utang na loob, ha?

These are usually followed by polite requests to:

(a) Be given that much-delayed help so that finally but finally Ate Charo, Tita Malou or Sir Deo can realize that they actually exist on this planet. Granted such a chance, the message sender is quite certain that any if not all of the three entertainment demigods mentioned above (upon seeing these rare and historical photos or footages) would exclaim, "Where have you been all my life?  Facundo, ilabas ang kontrata!"

(b) Be given a proper introduction of Mr. M (also known as the Professor Higgins of this generation of popular entertainers --- the Pygmalion of local stars ) or Miss Mariole (head of Starmagic, whose degree of patience in managing the careers of over a hundred performers must be brought to the attention of the Vatican) so that these undiscovered talents can be properly brought to the sacred portals of the revered to hone, develop and eventually blossom into the heirs apparent of Papa P., Lloydie, Bea and Whoever Else is There To Displace from the Throne.

(c) Be given an extra push to be part of the next major network reality show --- whether it is a singing competition ("My daughter is ten years old. She sings so well.  Listen to her version of "My Heart Goes On". Please help her become a star."), another star search ("Dear Tito, I want to be the next Gerald Anderson" to which I wanted to reply, "Life is full of wants ... judging from your photos, you have needs.  And your needs have nothing to do with Gerald Anderson.) or --- utang na loob --- yet another edition of Pinoy Big Brother  ("Tito, six hours akong pumila.  Dinaanan lang ako ng kamera at ng mga mata ni Direk Lauren.  Help me naman. I want to be inside the Bahay ni Kuya." To this I reply, "Heto ang  pamasahe. Umuwi ka na sa bahay mo sa Catbalogan. Hinihintay ka na ng Lola mo.").

(d) Be taken under my wings, to be mentored, managed and eventually launched like a rocket ship (or even fired like a cannon ball) to the stratosphere of stardom where mere presence is enough to provoke an entire community orgasm of screams, shrieks and approximations of demonic possession under the guise of unbridled adoration and idolatry.

(e)Be casually included in my next movie and television project, even in a walk-on role ("OK lang po kahit walang dialogue. Para lang may exposure.")  or hopefully a markado supporting role ("Direk, baka naman puwedeng may kaunting dialogue?").  Of course, there is that ancient quip in an attempt to be witty when they said, "Puwede ring ipakain sa buwaya ..." to which I reply, "Naku, sana sinabi mo noon pa. Dead na si Lolong."

OK.  Enough said and written: as I keep insisting in all my profile pages in social media, I am there to meet people, to know sentiments and ideas --- even to argue or to link up with persons from my past and future. I am not in Facebook, Twitter or any of the chatrooms to hold auditions.  There is a time and place for that.

I am only a talent scout by name in a TV contest where I appear on camera. In real life, I am not --- I repeat --- I am not a talent scout who haunts bars, streets, department stores, latrines and school campuses looking for the "next big thing."  

I also do not manage talents because I do not have the patience --- much less the perseverance and matching manpower like others who have made a career out of taking care of actors, actresses, singers and performers.  This is really a full-time job that demands any individual to be father, mother, benefactor, spin doctor and even hitman, fluffer or buffer just not only to jumpstart a career but also maintain it.

But what boggles my mind is how there is this Great Disillusionment of kids --- especially kids --- in thinking that they can duplicate the life and blossoming career of Daniel Padilla.  I guess it works that way, right?  Every time there is a new teen sensation --- every time you see all these You Tube videos of girls not even wearing training bras crying and having epileptic attacks at the mere sight of their idol --- there is this strange push, this obsession to become just like this privileged child from Heaven.

When I ask these kids why they want to enter showbiz, I usually get more of the same answers:

(A) They perceive work in movies and especially television as the Jackpot ticket to a multi-zillion peso lotto that will change their lives --- as well as those of their parents, siblings, relatives and perhaps the next two adjacent barangays.  They see stardom as the manna that literally falls from Heaven (well, in this case --- it is called the Upper Management of every tv network) that will defy all odds and karma.

(B) They want all the material possessions, branded clothes and luxury goods attached to the glamour of stars.  Boys want their SUVs, eventually their Jeeps, Benzes, Hummers.  Girls want their debuts covered by all the media as they are dressed like perverted Christmas bells in fantasy lands created by production overdosing on uppers, served their eighteen roses and eighteen candles by everybody who is any body in the biz.  Boys want their Rolex watches, Paul Smith or Dolce and Gabanna suits --- while the girls want to gallivant in Greenbelt and Bonifacio High Street invading Zara, Max Mara, Top Shop, Armani while swinging their Mulberry or better yet ... their Birkin 40s in their favorite shade of Togo leather.

(c) They want to be styled by Liz or Alyanna ... they want to be photographed by Raymund Isaac, have their make-up done by Juan Sarte ... be dressed up by Rajo, Francis or Randy O.  They want to rub elbows with Ann, Solenn, Georgina and maybe go on first name basis with Tim and Divine.

In other words, they want everything ... except being good at what they are supposed to be doing.

I shake my head and ask them if they have had any acting experience.  What was the latest film that they saw on the big screen?  Have they had even the semblance of training in theater?  Who do they consider as their greatest influence? ("Direk, ano po yung influence?") And at the end of every exchange of questions, I end up petrified, stupefied ... or simply appalled.

I realize that not all ... but most ... have such a superficial view of what being an actor in media is all about.  Because the brainwashing received from television and the enforcement given by magazines about the splendor of stardom, young people believe that being an artista is the only viable short cut solution to the anguish of poverty.

"Teka, marunong ka bang umarte?" Do you know what acting is all about?

And each time I get this somewhat standard reply, I go completely ballistic. "Direk, meron namang mga workshops, di ba?"

Utang na loob!

So just for the sake of clearing the air and clarifying exactly where I stand, let me raise the following points:

(A) The saying that "Many are called but few are chosen" must be referring to the auditions of reality shows ans star searches all over the world. But in this country, let it be known that out of about a thousand people seeking stardom, it will be a stroke of good luck if even one manages to make it to the top.  Now this is because ...

(B) Stardom is a strange brew.  You can be the most talented actor in the world but that does not guarantee that you will be a star.  There are some stars out there whose only claim to fame is that they are the faces of the moment, they have the right backers in the form of directors, studio executives and even talent managers or that God loves to throw a joke into the pit of mankind once in a while.  But ...

(C) It is also true that with limited talent comes an even more limited lifespan. Some stars last for a grand total of six months.  Others can remain above the title for more than five years. But for most, they are has-beens even before they get there and that is because ...

(D) As I have pointed out before, today is the age of pre-fab stars. You often wonder why entire houses can be built in a matter of days? Well, that is because of the miracle of pre-fabrication, the cut-and-paste-color-by-numbers sort of careers that are hastily assembled but not meant to withstand any earthquake exceeding Intensity 5.  Gone are the days of Judy Ann Santos or Vilma Santos or Nora Aunor because they were performers who became actors because they are artists.  Now actors are merely products discovered by networks, defined by marketing and thrown into the assembly line of entertainment. But again ...

(E) This does not mean that the actors today have no talent: some do. Some have such awesome talent.  How can one define Philippine cinematic acting today without the versatility John Lloyd Cruz and other actors who have what it takes? But part of the unfortunate scheme of things is that in a fast paced world like ours, nothing is built to last. Everything is disposable ... including acting careers.  In a profession so competitive, so crowded and so confusing, you are only as good as you are young.  And young means anyone below thirty.  Anybody who crosses that line will end up in parent roles.  Moreover ...

(F)This is a profession that no longer guarantees a lifetime involvement.  Sige, granted that Anita Linda and Eddie Garcia are octogenarians --- but these actors are living legends.  These actors evolved into who they have become through the years. Include Gloria Romero or the late Bella Flores.  They are not mere performers. They are icons because they represent growth in their careers spanning more than half a century.  But what about actors today?  Nora Aunor can still bedazzle.  Vilma Santos is impeccable.  Judy Ann Santos has never been this good.  But think about the young stars of five years ago? Where are they now?

Let that be a lesson.

Success is different from fulfillment. You can be successful but remain unfulfilled.  The sad part is that young people do not give a hoot about fulfillment any more because they think having their houses featured in ten spreads in a celebrity magazine is enough proof that they have made something out of their lives.  Some believe that the all the bling-blings in the world, all the pictorials and all those red carpet events are assurances that they have made it in life.

Oh, you wanna bet?

Kids, talk to me after five years and tell me what you've been through ... and I will tell you over and over again: Go back to school. Don't think that this career is forever. Keep your eyes wide open, your feet on the ground ... and never ever think that being on top means every thing. Sometimes it is too hard to get to the peak ... and for those who manage to crawl to the summit, the harder part of the journey begins: how do you stay there as long as you can hack it?

Let me unsettle you with an answer: you can't. One day you've got to go. So look at all the other better options.  I am saying that to the parents who are pushing their kids in the business as well.  It pays to be wise and shrewd. It's a damn bumpy ride.

As always,



  1. This is what they all the people out there should know.

  2. I totally agree! Sad to say a lot of people like to gamble, hoping against hope that they are The One. There is the "malay nyo ako pala yun" mentality.

  3. What a great piece. Thank you, but sadly it will go over most everyone's heads. Specially those who need to read it, and believe it. This is why we're poor, this over fascination with celebrity and stardom as the road out of poverty. But sadly media perpetuates this too.

  4. Well said and well written. This should be published in the newspapers and tabloids (translate to Filipino for the 'masa' to understand, if needed).

  5. Wow. This is amazing, Direk. Naluha ako. Really. I've got a BS Agriculture student who in our English class wrote and shared that her dream in life is to win in a beauty pageant, and eventually be discovered as an artista, and maybe join the Ms. Universe someday. It's sad, but she's not alone. Please do publish this not just in national papers but also in national tabloids in Tagalog for the masa to read and hopefully understand. Thank you po for this honest view on the so-called futures of our country.

  6. "...young people believe that being an artista is the only viable short cut solution to the anguish of poverty."

    Insightful observation about our society! Thanks for this. I watched your TED talk last year, very inspiring. :)

  7. "Keep your eyes wide open, your feet on the ground ... and never ever think that being on top means every thing. Sometimes it is too hard to get to the peak ... and for those who manage to crawl to the summit, the harder part of the journey begins: how do you stay there as long as you can hack it?"

    Very insightful piece, thank you for writing it. The obsession with becoming a celebrity or aspiring for this lifestyle really is becoming a serious problem.

    Not only do a lot of young people see "stardom" as a quick fix to all their problems, but young people seem to be losing the value of hard work in general.

  8. Success is different from fulfillment. You can be successful but remain unfulfilled.

    - true