A great ‘Pilipino’ weekendBy Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES – Last weekend was full of P’s.
Three “Pixnoys” (Filipinos who work at Pixar) showed up at the San Francisco launch of my book, “My Filipino Connection: The Philippines in Hollywood,” recently.
It’s tough to get Ronnie del Carmen, Ricky Nierva and Gini Cruz Santos – who are featured in the book – together in one place, away from Pixar’s airy, beautiful campus, considering their busy work schedules.
Ronnie is making history as the first Filipino to co-direct a film at the venerable animation studio. He shared updates on the progress of his still untitled film with Pete Docter as director. So, for now, it’s being referred to as “The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind.”
Top Filipino talent
The University of Santo Tomas (UST) alumnus’ co-director position makes Ronnie the top creative Filipino talent working in US cinema today.
The movie is expected to be a visual treat, in the excellent tradition that Pixar is known for, as it shows the inside of the human brain.
Ronnie and Ricky made key contributions to “Up” as story supervisor and production designer, respectively. “Up,” which won the Academy and Golden Globe Awards for best animated feature film, was the first animated movie to open the Cannes Film Festival.
Ricky is hard at work on “Monsters University,” where he is also the production designer. Due out in 2013, “Monsters …” is voiced by Billy Crystal [Mike] and John Goodman [Sulley], among other actors. It is described as “a look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at the University of Fear – when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.”
Gini, another Thomasian, was lauded by Katherine Sarafian, producer of “Brave,” during a recent interview in Edinburgh, Scotland. Katherine said, “Gini is one of our animators who worked with me on ‘Lifted,’ a short film several years ago. Gini was the first female animation supervisor that we’ve ever had at the studio so she was a real ground breaker for Pixar back in 2007. We were excited to get her on ‘Brave’ to animate some shots.”
It was interesting to hear the Philippine Consul General to San Francisco, Marciano Paynor Jr., put my book in the context of the Filipino-American experience. And it was refreshing to hear the fun, witty and candid Fe de los Reyes read excerpts from the book. That was a first and something different from my launch events in Makati, LA and New York.
Fe also sang a number from her musical, “AmerikaNa,” which she will restage this year.
Teenage singer Joy Lontoc made everyone smile when she said with the aplomb of a veteran performer, “Music, please,” before belting out her two songs. Champion gymnast Ria Recinto performed to Gary Valenciano’s hauntingly simple version of “Sana’y Maulit Muli,” one of my favorite OPM tunes which made me feel very Filipino and sentimental.
I was honored that among the guests was retired Ambassador Romeo Arguelles, one of the Philippines’ most distinguished career diplomats who served all over the world. Speaking of Filipino connection in tinseltown, Ambassador Arguelles’ daughter, Rowena, is a top Hollywood agent.
It was déjà vu time the following day when Ricky, wife Angie, and VuQo founders Rich Cabael and Giselle Arroyo also showed up in LA for the 40th anniversary benefit dinner and concert of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), a nonprofit organization that provides social and economic services to youth and families in multi-ethnic Historic Filipinotown.
In his acceptance remarks as the “Gawad Manlilikha” (Creative Arts) honoree, Ricky, this time wearing a barong, dished about how Pixnoys injected Filipino humor in “Finding Nemo.” The well-received joke involved our tendency to mispronounce “f” for “p,” as in “pisherman.”
Not to be outdone, apl.de.ap also had a “pish” joke when he received the “Gintong Tulong” (Corporate Philanthropy) award. The Black Eyed Peas co-founder asked the audience at the Glendale Civic Auditorium in perfect Tagalog: “Ano ang sinabi ng isda bago siya iprito?” He said, “Naku, ang daing!”
Apl revealed that he was a beneficiary of SIPA’s many worthy programs when he was a kid. He shared an amusing anecdote about how, as a newly arrived immigrant from the Philippines, he wore baggy pants because he loved to breakdance. One time, gang members accosted him and asked [he imitated their threatening voices and swagger], “Where are you from?” They actually wanted to know what gang he belonged to but apl said he replied with a big friendly smile and exclaimed, “I’m from the Philippines!”
The other honorees were The Greenlining Institute, Carlito Jocson and Mona Pasquil. Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio Grey, who emceed the dinner and awards portion, happily told us that she is expecting another baby this year.
Reggie Lee, who plays Charice’s dad in “Here Comes the Boom” and has a part in “The Dark Knight Rises” (he is also on the TV series “Grimm”), and Jennifer Paz, star of “Miss Saigon” and other musicals staged across the US, co-hosted the after-dinner program. The concert featured Nicole and Carlo David (Mon David’s talented children), Introvoys, Harlem Lee, Philippine Chamber Singers-Los Angeles (PCS-LA), AJ Rafael, Justin Ramos, Robert Shroder, Three Filipino Singers and Krystle Tugadi.
Acclaimed Filipino chef and frequent Wolfgang Puck collaborator Cecilia de Castro and her Academy of Culinary Education staff and students outdid themselves with delicious fare, from the spicy sinigang shots, braised pork to dessert, which included crème brulee that was so good I would have slurped it if the auditorium were only darker.
Kudos to producer Ted Benito and all the folks behind this successful fundraiser and celebration of SIPA’s contribution to the Filipino and other communities.
Apl leads the first ever celebration of Filipino music at the famed Hollywood Bowl tonight (Sunday, July 8) at 7.
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