BB is back as ‘Jungle Queen’By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
DINALUPIHAN, Bataan—BB Gandanghari, star of “Enchanted Garden,” looked perfectly at home on the set of the TV5 fantasy series at Roosevelt National Park, a rainforest near Subic Bay.
BB exuded a certain elfin, ethereal and yes, enchanting quality when she faced the press on Monday. It had nothing to do with her admittedly colorful past life.
For those who have lived under a rock, BB was the actor known as Rustom Padilla, before a reinvention that stunned the nation. Even coworkers are hesitant to call her by that old name.
Her “Enchanted” alter ego Michiko is a certified queen of the jungle. “My character just reclaimed her throne. The queen is back. I see her as an ice queen.”
“Enchanted” costar Alice Dixson, who played Rustom’s lover in the 1995 film “Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko,” recounted that whenever series director Joel Lamangan called BB by that unmentionable name, “BB rolled her eyes.”
BB insisted that she had been liberated by her transformation. “As an actor, Rustom was guarded. BB is free and fearless.”
True to form, BB was just as playful and provocative, sassy and sensitive, in answering questions from the press.
Although she is vocal about fighting for equal rights, she’s not so keen about acting as spokesperson, poster girl or sector representative of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community.
“I’m not ready to be political. I may say the wrong things. After all, I am still absorbing these experiences,” she asserted.
She clarified that she was showing her support, by talking candidly about LGBT concerns in the media.
“By doing my work well, hopefully I’ll be able to gain people’s respect for me and for others like me. We shouldn’t feel inadequate or inferior just because we are different.”
As talk turned to her stand on same-sex marriage, BB was unequivocal: “I am in favor of civil unions.”
She explained that when she was living in the United States, she witnessed how some of her gay friends were barred from the hospital room just because they were not “officially” related to their domestic partners who had been admitted. “They have no rights whatsoever,” he observed.
On a personal note, BB hopes to get married someday. “My dream is to wear a traje de boda (bridal gown),” she said, guffawing. “I am not looking [for a partner] but I am hoping. I want to grow old with someone.”
She exclaimed: “I’m visualizing it. I believe in the power of the mind!”
Actually, she envisions a beach wedding. “I love watching the sunrise and sunset,” she said and added, giggling, “but I could also get married in the forest.”
Apart from getting married, she hopes to adopt a child eventually.
“I am not different from other people, so why can’t I be a parent, too,” BB remarked. “It would be a wonderful experience to raise a child to be a good person.”
As of now, BB is quite a stern and sweet “mother” to seven-year-old pet Labrador Iman. “I discipline him,” she said. “He’s pretty well-trained and well-behaved.”
According to “Enchanted” production unit manager Edlyn Abuel, BB brings Iman everywhere.
Well, she did bring the dog to this faraway rainforest set. Quietly and patiently, Iman would wait in BB’s dressing room/tent while the cameras rolled.
Apart from “Enchanted,” she is in the cast of Gantimpala Theater’s new play, “Sayaw ng mga SENIORita”—along with stage stalwarts Lamangan, Soxie Topacio, Manny Castañeda and Lou Veloso.
In the play, written by filmmaker Jose Javier Reyes, she plays a former hunk who becomes a fabulous diva—a role that seems tailor-made for her.
“It’s a lot like my backstory,” she quipped. “My character Raquel is quite fascinating. I am flattered that Direk Joey (Reyes) was inspired by my journey.”
Another reason for doing the play, she said, is that it’s a homage to Gantimpala late founding president Tony Espejo.
“My first play was ‘El Filibusterismo.’ It was also for Gantimpala (she was still Rustom at the time),” BB said. “In my own little way, I want to pay tribute to Tony.”
BB hopes to portray more realistic roles for gays and transgenders onstage and onscreen.
“Another dream is to act in a film that will show the real trials and triumphs of people like me. Something like ‘Transamerica,’” she said.
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