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‘Yagit’ for Millennials

New discoveries top-bill reboot of 1980s pop culture sensation
/ 11:00 AM October 16, 2014
NEW KIDS on the block (from left): Steph Yamut, Jemwell Ventinilla, Zymic Jaranilla, Judie de la Cruz and Chlaui Malayao

NEW KIDS on the block (from left): Steph Yamut, Jemwell Ventinilla, Zymic Jaranilla, Judie de la Cruz and Chlaui Malayao

For good or ill, those who grew up in the 1980s had “Yagit” as an after-school special.

“Yagit” revolved around street urchins who were, more often than not, maltreated by cruel adults. The GMA 7 soap opera was eventually turned into a movie, “Mga Batang Yagit,” by Viva Films, under director Leroy Salvador in 1984.


While most Edsa babies may or may not have turned out fine, this current batch of child discoveries for GMA 7’s reboot of “Yagit” gives new meaning to the term “overachievers.”

Asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, they dish out a variety of professions, from the unsurprising to the mind-boggling.


Judie de la Cruz, 12, dreams of becoming a lawyer someday. Chlaui Malayao, 6, wishes to be a chef.

Jemwell Ventinilla, who is cast as chubby Tonton, typecasts himself by choosing to be a policeman. “But I also want to be a doctor and a popular actor,” Jemwell, 12, insists.


Seeing stars

Zymic Jaranilla, the 10-year-old younger brother of ABS-CBN child star Zaijian Jaranilla, reaches for the stars, figuratively: “I want to be an astronaut so I can see the sun, the Earth and other planets from outer space.”

No one wants to be a journalist?

Steph Yamut, 7 years young, takes the cake, exclaiming, without skipping a beat: “My dream is to be a developmental



Fortysomething reporters may not know what that is, so Steph gladly explains: “I wish to help children with special needs … those who hurt themselves or those with autism.”

Before you can pick up your jaw on the floor, Steph proceeds, undeterred, explaining that she was at first hesitant to audition for the show: “I’m not ‘Yagit’! We are not rich, but we are not poor. We are in the middle. We’re okay.”


As early as the tryouts, the Kapuso team, led by director Gina Alajar, had already noticed Steph. “She auditioned at SM Cebu. Steph was a stand-out back then,” recalls Direk Gina, who

BEING a former child star has made Gina Alajar extra patient with young actors.

BEING a former child star has made Gina Alajar extra patient with young actors.

was once a child star, too.

Direk Gina and the “Yagit” crew traveled to venues near and far in this exhaustive search: SM Cebu, Bacoor, Baliwag, Novaliches, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro and KCC Mall General Santos, Magic Mall Urdaneta and the GMA 7 studios in Quezon City.

“We were looking for kids that the masses would embrace as their own,” the actress-director clarifies. “But the bottom line: The kids should have talent.”

At 8 years old, she herself auditioned for her first big movie, “Ang Kaibigan Kong Sto. Niño” in 1967.

The working conditions have vastly improved now compared to her time,

Direk Gina remarks.

“Back then, I would be roused from sleep at 3 a.m. I’d be dizzy while doing drama scenes,” she recounts. “Now, we are strict with the kids’ cut-off, which is 12 midnight.”

The kids were also given their own acting coaches, Anne and Sweet Villegas. “Before we started taping, the kids had classes with Anne, who was my colleague at the Actors’ Workshop Foundation,” she relates. “On the set, Anne’s daughter, Sweet, helps me motivate them.”

Now, the kids are doing all right on the set, she reports.


Elbow room

“I give the children lots of elbow room … especially since they are newcomers. But I want to help them improve, too,” she says.

After all, these kids are the future of the entertainment industry. “Luckily, they are enthusiastic and [they] enjoy performing,” she says.


She admits that she can get frustrated when the actors she directs are distracted and unwilling to commit to the role and connect with coactors.

“I get upset when actors are lazy. When they don’t care and are only in it for the money. We are all here to make a living, but try to do your job well. Hone your craft,” points out the actress who had as mentors the country’s finest filmmakers, from Lino Brocka to Laurice Guillen.

All she asks from her actors is for them to trust her. “I tell them, just follow my instructions. At least, for the first two weeks, while we are molding your character, listen to me. Once the show is off and running and the characters are already established, I give them the freedom to do what they want.”

She insists that she no longer goes ballistic on the set. “I don’t want to suffer a heart attack. It’s not worth it. I prefer to work on a relaxed, happy set.”

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TAGS: Chlaui Malayao, Gina Alajar, Jemwell Ventinilla, Judie de la Cruz, Mga Batang Yagit, Soap opera, Steph Yamut, Yagit, Zymic Jaranilla
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