‘Beautiful animals’ reunite
Theirs were the heavenly bodies that sparked the 1970s cinema trend, dubbed as the “wet look” craze. Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa were handpicked by filmmaker Celso Ad. Castillo to portray rival beauties in the 1974 classic, “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa.” Or as it is known on IMDb.com: “The Most Beautiful Animal in the World.”
The two actresses started their show biz journey as pageant winners: Gloria was Miss Universe in 1969, while Elizabeth was Miss Luzon (in the Miss Republic of the Philippines tilt) in 1972.
Gloria only has fond memories of filming “Pinakamagandang Hayop” on Sicogon Island, Iloilo.
“Well, people might have a hard time relating to our experiences,” Gloria explained. “They might not understand it. We shot on a beach. It was a difficult situation, but we enjoyed ourselves because we were young.”
Gloria quipped that they had to rough it up on the pristine isle. “There was no other food, but fish! But we had fun. It was something different.”
Elizabeth looked back: “Glo was always asking for food from my mom, who was with us in Sigocon. My Mama treated her like a daughter.”
Gloria counts herself lucky to be directed by Celso Kid. “Not too many people would appreciate his filmmaking style. He was a no-nonsense guy, and one of the best.”
Sharing such an unforgettable shoot had undoubtedly strengthened the bond of Gloria and Elizabeth. “Now, we’re very comfortable on the set,” Gloria pointed out. “We understand each other right away. Even before she says something, I already know what she means.”
“It’s always fun to be with Glo,” Elizabeth agreed. “She is like a sister to me. She’s the friendliest bully I’ve ever met! I am very protective of her and vice versa.”
The two are reunited in the Bianca Balbuena-produced Cinema One entry, “Si Chedeng, Si Apple at ang LV,” the directorial debut of the acclaimed writers of “Birdshot” (Rae Red) and “Patay na si Hesus” (Fatrick Tabada).
Gloria asserted that working with youthful, independent-minded filmmakers is a breeze, “in spite of the tight budget.” “I liked the concept, plus I enjoy working with young people,” Gloria noted. “They’re talented and very passionate!”
Elizabeth has a different take on collaborating with the new generation. “It’s totally mind-boggling and very interesting. They’re all so techie and smart, but you cannot use technology to make artists understand what you want from them. Don’t just point to the monitor; speak to them! Monitors don’t have a heart … don’t have a soul.”
Gloria is thrilled to spar with Elizabeth again onscreen. “I am excited!” As a bonus, Gloria was cast against type, as Chedeng, a closet lesbian who goes on a road trip with her best buddy Apple (who is carrying her partner’s decapitated head in a Louis Vuitton bag).
Elizabeth likewise adores her character, Apple. “It’s challenging because we are complete opposites … except for [her fondness for] red sunglasses. That is so me! I love comedy!”
Gloria cannot really explain why she finds a kindred spirit in Chedeng. “I can’t pinpoint exactly … even if she was a latent homosexual, she lived a ‘normal’ life. She took care of what had to be done … she looked after her paraplegic husband and raised three children. By the way, she also has a gay son. If it happened to me, I might not want it, but I will accept it. Carry ko!”
After playing a secret gay, Gloria is raring to try other risqué roles. “Portraying a lesbian” was her dream role, she admitted. “But I also want to play a senior-citizen nun who gets involved with a priest or a lay person!”
Elizabeth has two roles on her to-do list. “I want to portray a deaf-mute. Also, a singer and I want to use my own voice. Might as well dream big! Suntok sa buwan, pero malay mo, tumama!”
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