Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
The first time I was really able to meet and interview Charice was a thanksgiving press con December of 2009 (way before the Glee casting). The previous interviews and press cons were chaotic with dozens of media people asking questions and requesting for photos…with them. And I distinctly remember Charice waiting for each writer and photographer who walked in, greeting them with open arms and a very Filipino beso beso (kiss on the cheek). It created a lasting impression on me that someone like her treated journalists as family. Assuming it was just a gesture on her part, it was extremely affectionate and humbling for her to do that.
Controversies of her avoiding fans and media before or during the 1@11 concert broke out just a few weeks back. It was obvious (to me at least) that there was a plausible explanation. Local showbiz writers, bloggers immediately put their two cents in saying that Charice’s success has gone to her head. Twitter comments were particularly painful which is a site she visited often. To anyone and everyone who personally knows her or has had some personal meeting would know that’s just not the case.
Everyone in the lounge waited with bated breath for her plane to land. We were there for her latest press con at the airport for a Valentine’s TV Special to be aired Feb 13 on GMA network. She got through the gates and guess what, media men started kissing and hugging her just like before. Nelson Canlas, ABS CBN reporters, Sel Guevara of TV5 all gave her the familiar hug and beso beso (kiss kiss). This time however it was just her mom Racquel holding her hand while walking and while the cameras surrounded her. Her top level international managers were not present for this trip.
Charice was able to explain that for the concert her American managers, who accompanied her then thought it best to whisk her away from the media when she arrived at the airport. She tried to explain to the manager (who will remain unnamed) that Filipino fans and media are so used to her having personal contact with them. The manager was so strict that no interviews of any kind were allowed. It was such a huge turn around from media who are so used to ambushing her for blurbs or quick comments. That same manager did not even want her to mention her involvement with the show Glee, which she plugged during her concert. All reporters gasped and then laughed in unison when Charice revealed, “Kahit nag Tatagalog tayo ngayon tinatranslate nila yon! (Even if we’re speaking in Tagalog now they’ll translate it).”
Charice has become such an international phenomenon that Oprah Winfrey herself has taken a personal interest in handling her career. Charice also said that all her TV projects in the U.S. were personally approved by Oprah. She auditioned for a half dozen TV projects which included some with Disney. And yet it was “Glee” that got the 100% go signal from Oprah thinking that she’d be perfect for the part and show.
The idea that she HAS TO BE shielded from overzealous fans and even at times media is the safer more conservative way of thinking that is applied to ALL international artists.
As Filipinos however, we have yet to let go of the concept that she’s strictly and only ‘ours.’
There are so many Filipino talents that have captured the attention of the world stage. Lea Salonga for example was (and still is) the best name as a performer with the success of Miss Saigon, then Les Miserable and now CATS. The huge difference between them is that Lea was always identified with her stage background like Repertory and that formal even elitist persona.
Charice on the other hand came from humble beginnings and had to overcome a lot of difficulties, not least of which is her parents’ separation. But precisely because of her background millions upon millions of Filipinos identify with her MORE. There are times when I look at her and see her as a little sister who’s grown up and conquered beyond what anyone can imagine. As much as we Filipinos would like to claim her as our own, she’s much bigger than that. She belongs to the world now.