Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Wrote some short profiles for Benchmark’s 12th issue, a special edition for the local brand Bench’s 30th’s birthday, in tandem with my friend Marga Buenaventura. If you notice a hit of bias towards Kathniel, it’s because there is.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK NICDAO
CREATIVE DIRECTION BY RAYMOND ANG
SET DESIGN BY ELMER PUEBLO OF ARCHETYPE DESIGN MANILA
PRODUCED BY MARTIN YAMBAO
STYLED BY MJ BENITEZ, DAVID MILAN, STYLIZED STUDIO
GROOMING BY SARI CAMPOS, PEPS SILVESTRE, JENJEN CABRIANA, RYAN KO, LALA FLORES, JUSTINE DEL ROSARIO, JUAN SARTE, NANTE ALINGASA, CHRIS RODIL, CELESTE TUVIERA

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THE KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS
Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo

The reign of Kathniel as the country’s eminent love team has not gone unchallenged— but despite rumours, gimmicks, and rabid fan wars, there is none other than has remained a true contender. The magic of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla is due to foundations that we see so rarely in highly publicized relationships: a partnership on equal footing, with one not more or less than the other. Bernardo and Padilla continue to grow together—in acting skill, in PR prowess, even in serving up faces at shoots—at a pace that they’re both ready for. She is not his damsel in distress; he is not the pedestal she steps on.

They are so keenly aware of the implications of every step they take, treating each character they play across films or television roles as if they were all in a single, extremely thought out timeline—a Pixar conspiracy, if you will, but for two people. “Conscious effort din ‘yan,” concedes Bernardo, pointing out their previous films Barcelona and Can’t Help Falling In Love as touchpoints of their onscreen maturity. “Kailangan mong iremind ang sarili mo na hindi naman parati puro pacute lang. Kailangan may nakikita sila na bago. Yun ang mahirap gawin, actually.”

It’s clear that they’re taking time to build a future. For Bernardo, that’s her burgeoning business empire, already beginning with the nail salon she recently launched with her mother. For Padilla, he acquiesces to moving behind the scenes, curious to produce or manage young musicians. But together?

Some playful back and forth ensues (Padilla says, faking seriousness, “Baka single lang ako.”
Bernardo cocks an eyebrow: “Alis na ko.”) but it’s clear the question has sparked a conversation. “Totoo naman ‘yung sinabi ni Kathryn,” Padilla muses. “Kayod muna. Kayod-kayod hanggang sa masuka ka sa pagod. May plano kami na pagdating nga ng thirty gusto namin talagang ‘yung nandoon pa rin sa showbiz, pero unlike now na talagang araw-araw nakikita ka.

“Siyempre,” he goes on, “’di natin alam kung may pamilya ka na ‘nun o hindi. Basta ‘yung ganoong normal na buhay na may business ka. Pupuntahan mo ‘yung resto mo o ‘yung farm mo….”

“Farm!” Bernardo exclaims. They lock eyes and smile. “Alam mo, sasabihin ko pa nga lang sa’yo… farm.”

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THE HEIR APPARENT
Juliana Gomez

It’s refreshing to see that in an age of extremely calculated public personas and social media, Juliana is a straightforwardly genuine person. She is passionate about volleyball, so much so that she plans to form her own team in order to play more competitively. She unself-consciously shows me cute messages on her phone, talking with ease about prom and boy space friends. And, of course, she’s not entirely sure of her future. Right now, she is at that age of curiosity, where she isn’t quite sure what fits her but she’s willing to try everything on—beginning, even, with musings about possibly learning how to direct films, given her obsession with Pulp Fiction and Comets.

But talk about the future involves the question she’ll be asked forever, up until the moment she actually decides to do it: Showbiz? Politics? Both? The industry gamely awaits to see whether she grows up to be a Richard or a Lucy—but truthfully, it’s more exciting to see her as simply Juliana.

Still, it’s hard to talk about how picture perfect this model family is without mentioning Bench, given that it’s as steeped in their history as much as they are to its own. “Since I’m an only child, I didn’t really play with other kids. I was always at dinners with the Bench family,” Juliana shares.

Growing up, she was unaware of the Bench legacy, seeing instead the man behind it: Ben Chan. Juliana’s family is incredibly close to that of Bench’s founder, to the point that they travel extensively together. Juliana recalls Paris back in 2012 as her favourite trip of all with them, “because it was my first time and I remember Tito Ben telling my mom, ‘Oh, I want to be the first man to take her to Paris.’”

Bench, to Juliana, is not an endorsement—it’s as ingrained in their family as a favourite Sunday restaurant is to yours. Her preferred potato chips are Bench’s. She used the brand’s powder when she was younger; today she still uses the same baby cologne (“the cotton candy one,” she shares) since she was still in the targeted age range for it. She’s worn its clothes at every point of her life. It’s an emotional choice, one that clearly comes out of love—because, really, for what other reason would you name a favourite brand of chips?

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THE GENERAL
Paulo Avelino

Paulo Avelino knows how to play the game. The actor—beloved by costars, directors, critics, fans—has spent the last few years charming the pants off everyone he crosses paths with, simultaneously setting himself up as a bankable, compelling leading man and as a mysterious matinee idol giving entertainment writers the spin around. Get you a man who does both, as they say.

Now he’s gearing up for what could potentially be his career’s defining role. Avelino is set to resume his mantle as Gregorio del Pilar from the 2015 runaway hit Heneral Luna, this time in the lead role in Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral. It’s a mountainous task for Avelino to play a storied character which, admittedly, grade school history has not shared too much about. After all, bringing to life a fictional character is one thing; creating a narrative for someone whose life was defined by his death is another thing entirely.

But, as if cast by divine intervention, Avelino shares the same fighting spirit as the boy general. He handles all the trappings of fame with a strong sense of duty, of knowing what he needs to do to get to where he wants to be. “I’m always in control of my career,” Avelino says, as a way of explaining the persona he presents to the public. And now he’s in control of how an entire generation of Filipinos will remember a hero. For reasons unknown, there is yet to be a monument erected in del Pilar’s honour—but perhaps Avelino is the one who can change that.

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