Meet Pinay cook who won NY acting trophy
SHE DICES and dances, stews and stomps, to conquer.
Unknown to many, actress Liza Diño is a professional flamenco dancer and now works as line cook for famous chef Wolfgang Puck’s resto, Spago, in Beverly Hills. She’s assigned to the Garde Manger line, whipping up “the first course: from cold and hot appetizers, to soups and salads.”
Plus, the former Mutya ng Pilipinas runner-up also serves as spokesperson for Miss Philippines-USA.
Diño, who won the lone “achievement in acting” citation at the International Film Festival Manhattan for Will Fredo’s 2006 indie drama, “Compound,” last November, juggles her reel- and real-life roles effortlessly.
For instance, after partying at the Manhattan fest, she went straight to the airport, caught a red-eye flight back to Los Angeles and drove back to her work at Spago the following day.
That’s life in America in a nutshell, she told Inquirer in an e-mail interview. “There was no time to relish my award.”
Then it hit her—most probably while chopping or peeling in the kitchen or surfing on Facebook—that winning in New York was “such a great validation.”
When she left for the United States to get married in 2008, the local indie scene was well on its way to global prominence. “I’m a big advocate of the indie movement. The award wasn’t just for me, but for our local filmmakers who relentlessly aspire to make movies they believe in… because we Filipinos have lots of stories to tell and they need to be heard.”
She misses acting, but had the chance to appear in two films: Ramon Sanchez’s “Imelda and Gunter” in 2009 and “In Nomine Matris (In the Name of the Mother),” her reunion movie with Fredo, which will be released this year.
In “Imelda,” she plays a demented First Lady; in “Nomine” she portrays a flamenco dancer torn between two loves. She has proudly out-ed herself as “Will’s muse.”
She explained: “Not to be biased, but Will is every actor’s dream director because of his ability to give you freedom to explore your character, while subtly guiding you to marry your experimentation with his own vision.”
Fredo describes her as a near-perfect collaborator, too: “Liza adapts. She’s an animal on the set. You can give her any challenge and she will do it with gusto. She inspires me to do well because she is one of those artists who give 100 percent on and off the set.”
He recounted that, for “In Nomine,” he asked her to redo an emotionally charged dramatic scene with Biboy Ramirez nine times, “but she delivered the same high level of intensity with each take.”
She related, with amusement: “I’ve been raped and battered in Will’s films. I’ve been a manipulative maid, an abused wife, a disturbed mother. But I still look forward to working with him because of the things I discover about myself with each new role.”
In “Nomine,” she plays a normal woman, somewhat. “I had three months of rigorous training with 25 other dancers before the cameras started grinding,” she recounted. “The dance sequences were choreographed by world-renowned flamenco dancer Clara Ramona.”
It was a thrill for her, she said, because it gave her the chance to showcase another passion, flamenco. “Imagine pandanggo sa ilaw with stomping feet, flamenco alegrias in Tiboli costume,” she enthused.
Next stop for Fredo and Diño is an experimental film called “Anino ni Sisa.” The actress related: “It’s all improvisational. We shot all over New York—in the subway stations and Central Park. People were staring because I was supposed to be a distraught mother screaming hysterically for her lost child.”
It was a collaboration with Fredo and cinematographer Sherwin Morada. It could’ve been just another working day for New Yorkers, but not for Diño, who thoroughly enjoyed it.
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