Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

On this Sunday afternoon with Typhoon Ruby threatening Metro Manila, Vice Ganda makes a dramatic appearance fit for a star and in a resplendent attire a non-star will not be caught wearing.

He is in gaudily designed shorts highlighting his long legs and sporting a hair style the old generation will find disconcerting. Cuddling a bouquet fit for a diva, Vice Ganda is showbiz success personified – at least in this presscon – and no one can take that away from him.

Vice Ganda with co-stars Bimby Aquino Yap and Richard Yap in "The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin.

Vice Ganda with co-stars Bimby Aquino Yap and Richard Yap in “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin.

For this writer, he starts by saying the year 2014 was good for him both in his career and personal life. He survived a controversy involving another TV host, he succeeded in isolating his love life and managed to sustain, if not magnify, his assorted showbiz income.

He is showbiz host in a major network, he is a much sought after endorser for some products, he has become a concert attraction and to top it all, his comedy films have made box office history.

For “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin” which is a sequel of a previous blockbuster, “The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin” which surpassed the 300 million mark, he is confident the new edition of this franchise will easily make P600 million. “If initially we only reach the P100 million mark, at least we still have the P500 million to aspire for,” he says in jest but with full determination.

Someone Up There has been kind to him, he adds and for this reason, he has nothing to fear even if his film is up against the starrers of the likes of Vic Sotto (“My Big Bossing”) and Kris Aquino (“Feng Shui 2”).

In this film sequel, Vice Ganda is promoted from Private Benjamin Santos VIII to Col. Santos in a role that will have him fighting terrorists on a global scale. “This film has a lot of challenge for me. It is a lot less stressful than my four-character role in “Boy, Girl, Bakla, Tomboy” but it required a lot of action from me. I figure in a special mission with a lot of fight scenes and I get to pit muscles with no less than Richard Yap (Ser Chief) and this good-looking terrorist named Tom Rodriguez. Like it or not, I might emerge the first gay action star after the showing of this film.”

Vice Ganda in military uniform: aiming for the title as the first gay action star.

Vice Ganda in military uniform: aiming for the title as the first gay action star.

Some gender issues are tossed in this presscon to test the reaction of the lead star who will metamorphose into Col. Benjamin in this festival entry.

Are the macho in the cast for or against gays in the military?

Eddie Garcia who served in the Philippine Scouts before he entered showbiz says it is one subject he would rather endorse to the higher ups. But personally, he sees nothing wrong with gays in the military service for as long as they live up to the challenges of the job.

Richard Yap agrees. “Personally I see no reason why we should discriminate against gays. There are female gays in the military and it’s no big deal.”

Vice volunteers to give personal observation on Ser Chief who is the epitome of decorum in “Be Careful With My Heart” and “Binondo Girl.”

Says Vice: “What is fun about Richard (Yap) is that he is funny without being deliberately one. He delivers his line with everyone on the set laughing but he remains poker faced and unaware of what he just detonated. Behind that serious profile is a man who is lot of fun and one who turns out to be another alaskador.”

Gloating half in jest, Vice reveals how in the fight scenes, he gets to wrestle with Richard (Yap) chest-to-chest and gets a whiff of his good breath ( in his own words “dibdib sa dibdib and laway sa laway”) while exchanging military orders.

Richard says his top-rating teleseryes (“Be Careful…” and “Binondo Girl”) were his virtual on-the-job training on acting. “They taught me a lot on how to get your nuances right and how to deliver your dialogues with the desired result. They come handy now that I am working with Vice Ganda who is famous for his funny one-liners.”

For now, Vice Ganda’s life is a far cry from the boy known as Jose Marie Borja Viceral who used to lead an obscure life living in the periphery of Jose Abad Santos St. in Manuguit, Tondo where he was the youngest in a family of five.

Poster of "The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin." The lead star has no doubt his film is going to be a super blockbuster.

Poster of “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin.” The lead star has no doubt his film is going to be a super blockbuster.

His memory of that dark Christmas before the onset of fame and fortune is still quite clear. “We had this small, green Christmas tree in a dark living room. Everything was simple, every member of the family was there and somehow we managed to have a happy Christmas.”

Earlier, he said his path was destined for him alone. “I worked hard not trying to be another Dolphy or another Vic Sotto or another Ai Ai de las Alas. I just want a piece of success as me.”
It is a tart and honest statement from someone who didn’t even finish AB political science at the FEU of his earlier youth.

“The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin” directed by Wenn Deramas also stars Eddie Garcia, Alex Gonzaga, Al Tantay, Vandolph Quizon, Malou de Guzman and James “Bimby” Aquino-Yap, among others. It opens on Christmas Day.

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