Celebs recall their most significant mentors

/ 12:13 AM January 10, 2017
Aicelle Santos (right) sings to a teacher

Aicelle Santos (right) sings to a teacher

The PLDT Gabay Guro (GG) event wrapped up 2016 with a bang in Davao by mounting a free concert with big raffle prizes for teachers, who were treated like royalty, even for just a day. It marked the culmination of yearlong training and livelihood programs for the teacher-beneficiaries.

TeacherFest honored their hard work and impact on society with a heartwarming tribute. There will always be “teacher’s pets,” but GG turned the table on educators to make them the favored ones, instead. The company’s brand advocacy head Gary Dujali said, “We want to impact the lives of our educators in a positive way, one teacher at a time.”


The jam-packed crowd went gaga over the song numbers of Pops Fernandez, Christian Bautista, Wency Cornejo, Chad Borja, Aicelle Santos and Regine Velasquez. We asked them to talk about their fave teachers/mentors:

Pops Fernandez: As a kid, I was scared of my Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Angeles, because she was so strict. She never liked it when her students would say, “I’m bored.” She believed that we should never be bored, because there were many things we should be doing rather than complain of how bored we were. Somehow, that got stuck in my mind, that’s why I am always on the lookout for new projects in and out of show biz.


In show biz, I’ll never forget Fritz Infante. As naive and young as I was, he wanted perfection. Back in the days when idiot boards and teleprompters didn’t exist, he’d make us go to the studio early and get to know each guest before we interview them on air. One lesson I picked up from him was this—when you’re onstage, don’t spoil that one chance to show them what you’ve got.

Event hosts (from left) Pops Fernandez, Andrew Wolff and MJ Lastimosa

Event hosts (from left) Pops Fernandez, Andrew Wolff and MJ Lastimosa

Christian Bautista: Audie Gemora, my theater mentor when I was just starting in show biz, said that one of the most important values I needed to learn in performing is connection. Performers need to connect with their fellow performers and the audience.

You have to channel your emotions and energy and connect with the people watching, even those seated at the farthest corner of the theater.

Wency Cornejo: The teacher I remember the most is Mr. D. Villanueva. I don’t remember his first name anymore, but we used to call him D-Vil—or devil. From him, I learned compassion and sympathy for the underdog.

Regine Velasquez

Regine Velasquez

Another one is Nonong Noriega, who was the musical director of our drama club called Cue. If not for him, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to start writing my own songs. Lastly, Anna Benjamin, who happens to be the mother of my son, is a public school teacher. To this day, I continue to learn from her about how to deal with women.

Aicelle Santos: My mom imparted strength. She taught me that you cannot rely on anyone else but yourself. And she’s living proof of that. She is my favorite teacher—and my hero.

Chad Borja: I have vague memories of my teachers because my family’s priority was survival. We barely had enough money for education. I had to work at an early age to be able to afford tuition fees. I can say that life itself is my mentor. Our financial difficulty became my inspiration to strive harder in life. Every experience taught me a lesson, and that molded me into who I am today.


Christian Bautista serenades a retired teacher.

Christian Bautista serenades a retired teacher.

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TAGS: Aicelle Santos, Chad Borja, Christian Bautista, Dolly Anne Carvajal, Dollywood, favorite teacher of celebrities, Inquirer columist, Inquirer column, PLDT Gabay Guro, Pops Fernandez, Regine Velasquez, Teacherfest, wency cornejo
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