by Pablo A. Tariman

His struggling days are over, he has moved from his humble abode to this special enclave he calls his dream home and for now, he lords it over Philippine television through his top-rating teleserye, “Ang Probinsyano.”

Coco Martin.  Christmas for him has always been about sharing blessings with his family.

Coco Martin. Christmas for him has always been about sharing blessings with his family.

On this early evening presscon where everyone went through the agony of coping with worsening traffic, Coco remains cordial, if, convivial as he gives everyone he knows a welcome hug.

For now, he is asking support for his latest project, “The Beauty and the Beastie” which is an entry in the coming Metro Manila Film Festival.

But in this latest starrer, there is no leading lady to speak of, no gripping love story to look forward to and no special “kilig” to make the heart grow fonder.

When Coco showed up, he was with someone dressed like the fashionable Amor Powers (of “Pangako Sa’yo”) A — elegant in white, hair brushed to reveal elegant black and gold in his hair and with that trademark stiletto heels he wears comfortably like a second skin. Looking ladylike and, at some point feigning helplessness, hoping to see a helping hand, Coco’s screen partner is a welcome change from drama and his proper introduction to comedy.

Like it or not, Coco Martin and Vice Ganda are studies in contrast.

He is a drama actor, the partner is a comedian honed by many years as a stand-up comedian.

Coco is a man of few words, Vice can in fact outtalk anyone.

Direk Wenn Deramas with Alonzo Muhlach. If his latest film is a thesis, he is confident he'd get a flat 1.

Direk Wenn Deramas with Alonzo Muhlach. If his latest film is a thesis, he is confident he’d get a flat 1.

He is the personification of discretion, the other loves to throw caution to the wind secure in the thought that his gift for articulation is an excuse to put any one on the spot.

But in private setting, things are different.

When Coco talks, Vice listens even if the former can be blunt about certain things.

When Coco asks about Vice Ganda’s love life, he can be very detailed like asking him how much he is spending on his lover of the moment. If he is a waiter, he quotes a much lower price. But if the guy has status, Vice Ganda is capable of admission he pays much higher.

But only if Coco is the one asking.

“With Coco, I can be painfully honest. With him, I can open my life and not regret it. We go back a long way in showbiz. We also witnessed each other’s hard climb to the top. But one thing that is admirable about Coco is his penchant for simple happiness. With bigger income, I wanted to go abroad, buy this and that and be alone with someone special. Coco has the habit of asking me about my latest acquisitions. I open up easily. But sometimes he’d make me feel so guilty because it takes only a few simple things to make him happy. He would often tell me that a person can be happy with just the basic things. From him I learned that happiness is not about latest acquisitions but more like how you feel inside and how you care for your fellow men.”

In another level, Coco admits this film with Vice Ganda is his introduction to comedy which he says is not his forte.

It is also Coco’s first film with Direk Wenn Deramas.

Another side of Coco is narrated by Direk Wenn.

“In the beginning, he is always open to a good collaboration mainly because comedy is strange territory for him. So I guided him how can be himself and still elicit humor. Even for a comedy film, he takes everything seriously. When I realized how he gave everything in a scene, I just told myself this is one hell of an actor who can last more than 200 years. His dedication is amazing and his humility is even more astounding.”

Coco admits working with Vice and Direk Wenn is totally new experience for him — he who has no track record in comedy. “I am glad I was guided effectively and coached every step of the way,” he adds.

Still, Coco would not feast on complements.

He checked the rushes and reviewed how he fared. He was happy with what he saw.

As for Direk Wenn, he could feel a good work when he sees one. He points out: “If this latest film is a thesis, I’d say I’d easily get a grade of 1. That’s how confident I am I did a good job.”

Coco Martin with co-stars Vice Ganda, James Reid and Nadine Lustre. The drama actor's first taste of comedy.

Coco Martin with co-stars Vice Ganda, James Reid and Nadine Lustre. The drama actor’s first taste of comedy.

As for Coco, he knew he gave it everything he had with the help of co-actors and a sensitive director.

On the other hand, Christmas for him is always about spending it with his family.

For him, happiness is not always about things he can buy but more about things he can share.

He concludes: “When you spend it with your family and your loved one, you can’t go wrong where you will find happiness on Christmas Day.”

“Beauty and the Beastie” also starring James Reid, Nadine Lustre, Alonzo Muhlach and Marco Masa (“Nathaniel”) will open on Christmas Day.

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