Sunday, June 29, 2008

LEA SALONGA: The International Star of the Philippines

The International Star of the Philippines"

Cast at age 18 in the title role of the original London and New York productions of Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga did indeed get through those performances and got through them well enough to snag a shelf full of awards any performer would covet. Her career continues to soar.

A recent review of a Broadway revival of Flower Drum Song said the
three main reasons to see the show were "great costumes, beautiful staging and Lea Salonga."

She launches a U.S. concert tour on February 12, the night before Harmony in Faith is broadcast. But no matter what part she plays, in whatever venue or medium, she brings one thing to each—her strong commitment to her faith. "My faith has pulled me through a lot of rough spots in my life and my career. My relationship with God is pretty good. I try to keep it as personal as possible." Then she laughs. "For me, going to confession is very cathartic. It's like going to therapy—you just don't see the other guy, they forget you and they never bill you!"

Salonga says that as a child she dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist. Born in the Philippines, Salonga started performing professionally at age 7 in a production of The King and I in Manila. She won a gold record for her first album, Small Voice, recorded at age 13. In 1992, she sang the voice of Princess Jasmine in the Disney animated film Aladdin, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Salonga says she was pleased to be asked to host Harmony inFaith. "I think it was pretty important to do. I felt it was a calling because my business isn't just all about singing and making
people happy that way. It was important to represent my country as an Asian Catholic and it was a chance to show my faith. My faith is extremely important to me."

Produced by Oblate Media and Communication Corporation with funding from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the program is a video response to a pastoral document from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. America's fastest-growing immigrant group, more than 350-thousand Asian and Pacific Islanders arrive in the United States every year, a 48 percent increase in the past decade. The program profiles the music, communities and deep faith of many of these Asian and Pacific Catholics, emphasizing what the Bishops called "their gifts and contributions."

The Bishop's document continues to call the Asian/Pacific Islander community in the U.S. "rich in their diversity, yet one in their yearning for peace and fullness of life." The Bishops call on the
American Church to welcome this new wave of immigrants and to celebrate their presence in the United States. "Everyone in the world has different needs," Salonga said, "and the Catholic Church has welcomed those who wish to join regardless of where they are or who they are or where they come from. It's the one religion that unifies all these people all over the world, even as different as they might be." Shot on location in San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Carthage, Missouri, Harmony in Faith features profiles of the Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Kmhmu (Laotian), Samoan, Tongan and Asian-Indian communities.

Featured in the program are: Most Rev. Mar Jacob Angadiath, Bishop of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar, Catholic Diocese of Chicago; Fr. Paul Lee, Our Lady of Victories, Washington, DC; Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Former President, USCCB; Sr.
Felicia Sarati, CSJO, Director, Ethnic Pastoral Center, Diocese of Oakland; Cecile Motus, Ethnic Coordinator for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, USCC, Washington, DC; Fr. Isibre Bak, Congregation of the Mother Coredemptrix, Carthage, MO; Bishop John S. Cummins, Bishop Emeritus, Diocese of Oakland, CA; Bishop Dominic Luong, Aux. Bishop, Diocese of Orange, CA; Bishop Ignatius Wang, Aux. Bishop, Archdiocese of San Francisco, CA; and Bishop Oscar Solis, Aux. Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA.

She's won a Tony, an Olivier, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards, she performed the original version of an Oscar-winning "Best Original Song," she's launching a national concert tour—and she still prays before performances. "There were nights when I was doing
Miss Saigon in London and in New York when I was waking up in cold sweats because of the pressure of the show…I was just praying, just praying that I get through it."

Lea Salonga made her professional debut at the age of 7 in Repertory Philippines' production of The King And I and has since appeared in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Fiddler On The Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Annie, The Sound Of Music, The Goodbye Girl, Paper Moon and The Fantasticks. At the age of 10 she began her recording career and received a gold record for her first album Small Voice. She has also hosted her own musical television show, Love, Lea, and opened for Stevie Wonder during his concerts in Mani la. In 1989, Lea went to London to play the role of Kim in the hit musical Miss Saigon for which she received a Laurence Olivier Award, and in 1991 went on to portray that role on Broadway where she garnered the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle A wards. While in Miss Saigon Lea recorded the singing voice of Jasmine for the Walt Disney animated hit Aladdin, and soon after recorded the role of Tuptim in a new recording of The King And I with Julie Andrews, Ben Kingsley and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

In 1993 Lea played the role of street waif Eponine in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, then flew to Los Angeles to perform the song "A Whole New World" at the 65th Annual Academy Awards, where the song won an Oscar. In the same year she released her self-titled international debut album with Atlantic Records, which has gone platinum and gold in parts of Southeast Asia.

Two years ago Lea played the role of Eliza Doolittle in Repertory Philippines' My Fair Lady and the role of the Witch in Singapore Repertory Theatre's Into The Woods. She was also the opening act for Frank Sinatra's Manila concerts, then performed at the Hollywood Bowl in a concert entitled Arabian Nights at the Hollywood Bowl as part of World Cup Week 1994.

From December 1994-February 1995 Lea played the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in Team Image Entertainment's production of Grease in Manila, and appeared in a special concert called The Music Of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg with other Filipino arti sts performing selections from the musicals Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. She made her US television film debut when she played the role of Geri Riordan in Hallmark Hall Of Fame's Redwood Curtain on ABC with Jeff Daniels and John Lithgow. Currently her voice can be heard in a new single recorded with Peabo Bryson called "How Wonderful We Are" which is part of a new album called People, which also includes selections by other artists such as Vanessa Williams, Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan.

She made yet another appearance at the Hollywood Bowl this summer in a concert called Music Tells A Tale, appearing with Tyne Daly and Reese Holland. Lea was chosen to play the role of Eponine in the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 8, 1995, and performed with Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball, Ruthie Henshall and Judy Kuhn, among others. She will also be the singing voice of the lead for a new Walt Disney animated film called The Legend Of Mulan. Last November 1995 in Manila, she performed in a concert called Music and Miracles for the benefit of the victims of Typhoon Angela, and early this year returned to London's West End as Eponine in Les Miserables.


Lea Salonga (born February 22, 1971 in Manila) is an actress and singer from the Philippines and has achieved international recognition. Her most notable performance is her portrayal of Kim, the lead role in the musical Miss Saigon.

Lea Salonga was born Maria Lea Carmen Imutan Salonga to Feliciano Salonga and Ligaya Imutan. She spent the first six years of her childhood in Angeles City, Pampanga, before moving back to Manila, Philippines.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Angelica Panganiban: The Angelic Face

Angelica Panganiban: The Angelic Face

Young actress Angelica Panganiban—in the hint of darkness and intensity beneath that voluptuous beauty.

That's dinner for the curvaceous Angelica Panganiban, who, at 20, has already gotten the covers of two international men's magazines sizzling, starred in her own launching movie, and had her share of Internet notoriety, thanks to some illegally posted photos.

Angelica does have currency nowadays as the Lolita of the moment, exuding an aura in her pictorials that would certainly merit Nabokov's approval.

But reality and fantasy collide inside the suite, with the cosmetics clattering on the dresser, makeup artist working his magic, and Angelica staring down the rest of her meal: a green salad, a pesto-like concoction called “Green Goddess Dressing,” banana pudding, and nuts, all packed in individual microwavable containers courtesy of The Sexy Chef diet catering service.

“Kaya nga eh. Pinapadalhan ako ng menu kung ano yung kakainin ko the next day, binabasa ko na agad para i-prepare ang sarili ko. Kaya minsan bago kumain, umiinit na ulo ko, eh,” Angelica jokes, trying to suppress a laugh.

The audience can't hear Angelica, of course, as her voice dissolves in the night air. It's almost 9 in the evening. We're about to go downstairs for a shoot in Le Bar, the hotel's new bistro cum library across the lobby.

And we could all tell she' genuinely pressured to look right for the part, to avoid projecting the air of bikini-clad vixen and instead, be properly glammed up and worthy of Rajo's creations. Still, whatever concerns she has at the moment are quickly set aside, as she assumes her giggly, smiling mien, walking with the excited gait of a teenager off for a night out with her friends.

“She's just this big kid. With a woman's body.” The though insinuates itself rather rudely in my head as we file into the elevator.

As it turns out, the shoot is a breeze. Whatever apprehensions Angelica may have had about the shoot are not evident. She goes through the motions like a seasoned professional. The shoot has this very light and airy feel to it. There's ever room for kidding around, with Angelica cracking her share of jokes at her own expense.

She says she's been living on her own for the past nine months, and gosh—how expensive it is to live alone! The rent for the condo! The gas for the car! The electricity! The leaves make a crunching sound with her every bite.

So why insist on living alone then? “Kasi wala akong alam sa buhay!” she replies. “I grew up with everything being done for me. There was always someone around to help me with the small stuff. Small stuff that I can't live without—like folding my clothes properly. The first time I went to a shoot without a PA, I got so frustrated! I couldn't fold my own clothes!” Ah, the hazards of being a child star, as she has been since she was 6.

So off she went to live alone, to be independent; to learn to fend for herself in a world where complete strangers can steal photographs of you in your underwear, and spread their un-retouched starkness.

How did that happen? Both Angelica and one of her handlers fill me in on what happened. Those rather unflattering photos of Angelica were filched by someone from the ad agency tasked to produce the sexy calendar for a brand of liquor. “Whoever says that those photos on the Net show how I really looked during the pictorial is misleading people. Those photos were test shots. They were taken a month before the actual pictorial took place. It was the fitting stage. That's why you will notice that some of the outfits are loose and simply did not look good at me.

“After a month, I had lost the weight and was fit and trim enough for the actual pictorial. So it's unfair to say that my photos from the actual shoot were heavily altered or Photoshopped. If ever any retouching was done, that was the artist's and the ad agency's call,” she explains.

By the time the Maxim shoot came along, Angelica says she was ready for them. “I can categorically say that I loved my best for those pictorials. Very minimal retouching was done.”

Is that Internet experience the reason why she's on the South Beach Diet? “Not really. Believe it or not, I don't eat a lot. I can get by with a slice of pizza as a full meal. The problem is, my body is so reactive. I eat a slice or two of pizza, and the calories start to show. Whatever I put in shows up on the outside, but when I don't eat, I also slim down very quickly. You won't believe how flat my tummy is after a night's sleep.

“I'm on a diet right now because I'm shooting a new movie, yes. But I also decided on it for health reasons. You see, I don't cook for myself. I can't prepare healthy meals, especially now that I live alone. I used to eat fastfood all the time. It came to a point when I wasn't feeling good anymore. My health was affected.

“On my own, I would have a hard time choosing healthy meals. Now, the careering service prepares my meals and makes sure I'm eating healthy food throughout the day.”

“The first one happened just a few months after I got my license. I got sideswiped by this huge truck. I stopped my car, looked at the damage, and got really angry. I think I did that because that's the reaction I see in the movies. You know—get out of the car and get really pissed.

“I got back inside my car and chased after the truck, raring to get into a fight with the driver. Again, I was doing that because that's what I saw in the movies. I didn't know a thing about handling those situations.

One accident really left her shaken, though. “The second accident I had was last year. February 15, would you believe? Right after Valentine's Day. That time around, another truck tried to overtake me. I panicked because it looked like it was going to hit me. So I turned the wheel sharply to the left to avoid the truck, and I hit this other car moving alongside me. I thought I was going to die. The person in the other car was somebody's driver. Then the police came. They wanted to take me to the police station. I was, like, why? Am I being arrested? I was really scared. I thought I was going to go to jail. It's a good thing the other driver was a very nice man. Even though I crashed into his car, he was the one trying to calm me down. So, hello, manong, wherever you are, marami pong salamat!

“At the police station, I had to pose holding this piece of paper with numbers on it and they took my picture. I even posed beside the damaged part of the other car.

“I was taking to the car's owner on my cellphone and apologizing, ‘Sorry po talaga! Akala ko po talaga mamamatay na ako!' She assured me that all the stuff we were doing was just routine, so that the insurance companies could take care of everything else,” Angelica recalls.

As she opens the last food container, filled with cooked, peeled peanuts, she also recalls the latest accident she had while driving. “Would you imagine it happened while I was trying to park my car at my usual parking space? I was in the condo's parking area. I'd parked my car in that space dozens of times, so it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I didn't know that the guard ha put a chain across the space, with one end tied to this shelf. I didn't see the chain at all. So I drive into the parking space and hit the chain. The chain pulls down the shelf, which crashed down the roof of my car.” By the end of her story, Angelica is lying on her stomach, munching on the last of the peanuts.

Before the interview, one of Angelica's handlers tells me about Star Magic head honcho Johnny Manahan's psychological assessment of Angelica. “Mr. M (as Manahan is fondly referred to) believes in saying, ‘There's no beauty without strangeness.' Angelica has this ‘strangeness' about her. Her acting has edginess, and her eyes say a lot. You can see an intensity in them that's wild and unpredictable, like she's up to no good. Kinda psycho, but in a positive way.”

That wild side isn't evident during the interview, though. Angelica actually comes off as being quite regular, as she talks to a friend on her mobile phone. Her friends are obviously a major part of her life. Angelica says she would rather stay at home and invite friends over instead of going out to party at night. “We watch DVDs. Eat. Then we talk. We can talk the entire day, usually about movies—movies that we watched, movies that are currently being shot. Showbiz. Pinoy Big Brother. I'm very happy being with my friends.”

Proof that she enjoys her friends is her habit of splurging on them. Or more accurately, it's a habit that she's trying to kick. “When I wasn't on my own yet, I would give friends whatever they wanted. I wouldn't think of how expensive a particular gift was, I just bought it. Now, I don't do that. I watch my expenses now that I'm living and earning for myself. Nowadays, I just give them 100 pesos, for pamasahe!” she says, laughing.

She recalls her old spending habits with a kind of fascination. “Before, I thought nothing of spending P5,000 a day. I wouldn't even remember where the money went. One time, while shopping, I blew P27,000 at this swanky boutique.

“Nowadays, I never do that. I've learned to spend on basic necessities first. I only spend on expensive clothes when absolutely necessary for a specific occasion,” she says.

“Why do these blind items keep coming out, which invariably paint you as a bitch?” I ask. Angelica has a quick answer, without showing the slightest offense at the question. “That's because I try to be the real me all the time. I won't pretend to be nice. I speak my mind and am true to what I feel. Everybody in showbiz is plastic. Not me. If you do something I don't like, you'll know about it. From me. I won't pretend every thing's alright then talk behind your back.

“ Me. I exists,” Angelica replies, her eyes flashing fiercely for an instant, in a beautiful, mischievous way, and we know exactly what Johnny Manahan was taking about.