Don’t mess with La Primera Contravida
She isn’t known as La Primera Contravida for nothing.
Cherie Gil, best known for immortalizing such deliciously catty villainesses as “Bituing Walang Ningning’s” Lavinia Arguelles on the big screen, can give a master class on the withering look, the subtle diss and the stylish walkout.
Once in rare while, Cherie gets to practice her “rhymes-with-witchy” skills in real life, especially when confronted by unprofessionalism or, worse, inanity.
A recent mini-tempest was when Cherie turned her back on an interviewer who had asked about her niece Andi Eigenmann’s personal life—specifically, the paternity of daughter Ellie.
Looking back, Cherie wished she could’ve handled things differently. “That I was more graceful in walking out,” she quipped. “I was caught off-guard. I guess, there was no time to think. It was impulsive, but it was the best reaction I could muster.”
It was classic Lavinia.
She told the Inquirer that although the Eigenmanns are a close-knit clan, “that doesn’t mean we would divulge everything that happens in the four corners of our homes.”
In the same light, “we would always defend and protect each other, if needed.” It’s just that she felt that it wasn’t the time and place to talk about “an issue that had nothing to do with me.”
The event was for an advocacy campaign, she explained. “I was there for HIV awareness, not Andi awareness!”
Since she frequently plays calculating ice queens onscreen (including her latest GMA 7 series, “Alyas Robin Hood”), many fans are unaware of her “kooky” sense of humor, which she initially honed in the ’80s gag show, “Champoy.”
“Millennials only get to watch ‘Champoy’ on YouTube,” she remarked.
It was “Champoy” director Peque Gallaga who first noticed Cherie’s potential as a comedienne. Only 17 years old, Cherie, whose biggest claim to fame then was the Regal camp flick “Problem Child,” went mano a mano with the industry’s best comics in the weekly show.
“My mentors were the crème de la crème in the business: Mitch Valdes, Tessie Tomas, Noel Trinidad, Gary Lising and the late Subas Herrero,” she related.
On hindsight, she regarded the “Champoy” crew as her “breather” from the “Eigenmann family saga.” “My life was full of drama then. ‘Champoy’ taught me to live life lightheartedly. Until now, we still get together. We’re like family.”
In terms of comedy, the “Champoy” cast taught her the basics. “Timing. Being yourself. Since they accepted the real me, I was comfortable around them, and my wacky self came out.”
She never failed to make the veterans laugh with her Cherie-isms, malapropisms that became her trademark. “I’d say things like: ‘My answered were prayers.’ Or ‘Are your locks doored?’ Or ‘phemonemom,’ instead of phenomenon!”
She’ll put her comedic chops to good use in her latest play, Repertory Philippines’ “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which runs at Onstage Theater from Jan. 20 to Feb. 12.
It is a fitting return to Rep for Cherie, who played the Baroness in “The Sound of Music” in 2006.
“I did ‘Sound of Music’ because my daughter Bianca was cast as Louisa, one of the Von Trapp children,” she looked back.
Bianca, who is now a budding actress in the United States, credits her mom for her love of the performing arts.
“For the essay part for her school application (New York University), she shared that I used to bring her to the rehearsals of the play, ‘Doubt,’” Cherie explained. “By the end of the run, she was able to memorize my lines. And she was only 10 years old then. That was when Bianca realized that acting was what she wanted to do in life.”
“I wanted to do comedy for a change,” she shared. “Our director Bart (Guingona) had mentioned to me that ‘Vanya and Sonia’ was a spoof of Chekhov’s characters. Later, Rep offered this same play. I was like: ‘Game!’”
After all, Cherie isn’t the type who would shirk a serendipitous challenge. Never. But mess with her and watch her inner Lavinia emerge—and walk out in high style.
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