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YENG Constantino

KIM CHIU, Cristine Reyes, and Julia Montes await their turn backstage.

ILOILO CITY—It was the fourth Sunday of January. As early as 3 a.m., revelers who wanted to celebrate the Dinagyang Festival by watching their favorite stars perform live were already lined up outside the Iloilo Sports Complex, where “ASAP 18’s” first out-of-town show of the year would be held—at noon.

When the clock struck seven, event marshals started allowing the fans to enter the sprawling track-and-field oval that accommodates around 50,000 people.

At one end of the field was the stage decked with flags, cut-out illustrations of Atis and colorful loops and arches accented with native hats, flowers, fans and other traditional trinkets. The show’s technical crew had a one-week head start to assemble and make everything look perfect.

On the right side of the stage was the artists’ holding area, where 15 white tents had been pitched, along with a small dining spot, buffets and food stalls—one of which served the province’s famed La Paz Batchoy. The stars’ handlers camped just outside the tents, ready to attend to their wards’ needs.

MATTEO Guidicelli and Piolo Pascual

JESSY Mendiola

The venue was teeming with people by 10 a.m. It started to get humid and soon, it was  blisteringly hot. There were a lot of grumbling and sighing from people slumped over the barricades separating them from the VIP section and the stage. Some said they had skipped breakfast; others were determined to  hold their bladders, rather than leave their hard-earned spots.

Fortunately, there were preprogram activities that included games, production numbers by tribe dancers, and casual performances by singers.

There was lot of waiting for the stars, needless to say. While some of them preferred to stay inside their tents and relax, the restless ones came out to stretch their legs and walk around backstage. One of the earliest celebrities at the venue, a groggy Martin Nievera, talked to the production staff before going inside the tent that he shared with Gary Valenciano.

Robi Domingo and Young JV posed with fans seeking photo ops. “X Factor Philippines” grand winner KZ Tandingan looked adorable as she came out, still sporting hair rollers, to line up for waffles. Jed Madela, ever the perfectionist, was intently perusing what seemed to be a lyrics sheet. Bamboo Mañalac strode by the food stalls, making the servers abandon their counters to have snapshots taken with the OPM rock icon.

KZ TANDINGAN

Hungry hunk

Billy Crawford and Cristine Reyes sat at a nearby table for a quick bite and little chat. Sporting a bright pink shirt, John Prats was easy to spot as  he wandered around, a cup of coffee in hand. A few moments later, Gary V bumped into him and showed off his (Gary’s) new sunglasses. Yeng Constantino’s fiery-red hair was just as eye-catching. Meanwhile, a bare-faced Juris was on the phone, trying to locate her designated tent.

“I’m hungry!” announced Piolo Pascual, who had just come from the taping of his coming drama series, “Apoy Sa Dagat.” He headed straight for the buffet and wolfed down two mini cupcakes in seconds. His “Apoy” costar Diether Ocampo was seen chatting with Shaina Magdayao nearby.

Zsa Zsa Padilla, also with her hair up in rollers, suddenly appeared, laughing as she strutted sassily toward the men. A group of giddy fans crowded around the Divine Diva for photos.

YENG Constantino

She shrieked, “Ayyyy! Mga bruha kayo naka-rollers pa ’ko! Ha-Ha-Ha!” Still, she gamely worked the sea of cell phone cameras.

As noon approached, the stars scurried back to their tents to change into their Dinagyang-inspired costumes. The ladies wore colorful tops with feathered headdresses; the men, shirts adorned with beads and mosaic-like details.

Fans screamed as the stars gathered backstage, now pervaded with a sense of urgency—production staff briefing the celebs as they launched into last-minute rehearsals, writers scribbling spiels on mats of Manila paper, TV crews interviewing stars, floor director giving out instructions and show director Johnny Manahan overseeing everything before disappearing into an OB van.

 

Party time

And then it was party time. “ASAP,” which is celebrating its 18th year this 2013, exploded with a chest-thumping traditional dance number featuring Iza Calzado and local groups Tribu Paghidaet and Irong Irong Dance Company.

ZSA ZSA Padilla: Pretty in rollers

Gary V. stormed in with the G-Force dancers performing Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music.”

Enrique Gil, Rayver Cruz, John Prats and Gab Valenciano faced off in separate dance duels. Resident balladeers Martin, Jed, Christian Bautista and Erik Santos, took on One Direction’s “Time to Get Up.” Cristine and Kim Chiu did a sexy Jennifer Lopez “Dance” number. Bamboo, Yeng, Zsa Zsa, Vina Morales, and Nikki Gil took turns belting out and dancing to Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been.”

Other performers included Iya Villania, Maja Salvador, Billy Crawford, Jericho Rosales, Jake Cuenca, Jessy Mendiola, Denise Laurel, Miles Ocampo, Khalil Ramos, Matteo Guidicelli, Juris, Wynn Andrada, Ella Cruz, Myrtle Sarrosa, Zaijan Jaranilla, Xyriel Manabat, Jovit Baldivino, Paolo Valenciano, Kean Cipriano, Marcelito Pomoy, Richard Poon and Zia Quizon.

Based on their high-energy performances, the artists didn’t seem to be bothered by the scorching heat. But as they exited the stage, huffing, puffing and dripping with sweat, the first thing they reached for were bottles of water and towels.

Stage rivals

BAMBOO Mañalac

One of the most anticipated and talked-about productions was Kim and Maja’s number, dancing to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire”—mainly because of the two’s much publicized falling out over Gerald Anderson. There wasn’t much interaction between the two young actresses before they took the stage—Maja rehearsed with a female dancer backstage stairs, while Kim practiced her moves by herself under a canopy tent a couple of meters away.

For about three hours, the Ilonggo crowd was treated to the Sunday variety show’s usual fare of song and dance numbers—but on a much grander scale.

photos by Allan Policarpio

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