by Pablo A. Tariman

In the beginning, one wondered what would become of Coco Martin if he wandered into another territory like comedy.

He has made a name as a dramatic actor and an even more engaging performer as an action star. So why bother?

Coco Martin on FPJ.The late actor will remain a role model and  idol of a lifetime.

Coco Martin on FPJ.The late actor will remain a role model and idol of a lifetime.

But to him, more untested challenges are there for him to hurdle.

In “Beauty and the Beastie,” he agrees to do a twerk in a hilarious scene where a potential undercover agent played by Vice Ganda laid down her demands before he agrees to impersonate a beauty contestant from another country.

When that scene unfolded, the theater burst with howls of laughter and pandemonium ensued the likes of which ended in a box office triumph that dislodged another popular contender in the box office throne.

Such an absurd dancing scene would be the death of an action star.

But to Coco’s credit, he pulled it off with finesse and he remained the man of the hour even as the character of Vice Ganda was after a slice of his affection.

The latest challenge was that Coco “turned” into a woman in the latest episode of “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano” as his character resorted to this desperate measure to hunt the abductors of his sister-in-law played by Bela Padilla.

Once done over, he became Paloma, the woman of the night and his encounter with “her” first black patron became a TV and facebook sensation.

On this early evening media encounter, Coco related how he survived the twerk scene in “Beauty and the Beastie” and the Paloma scene in “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano” which is still hot topic in social media.

“It didn’t come easy of course,” the actor said as he admitted he had reservations doing a dancing scene in the latest Wenn Deramas blockbuster. “But I know everyone in the film is working hard to come up with a riot of a comedy. I told myself ‘baka maging ewan’ ako dito pag sumayaw pa ako (I feared looking absurd in this dancing scene). But the moment called for it and Direk Wenn insisted it would work for me and the movie. So off I threw caution to the wind and starting grinding. I didn’t realize it would elicit the loudest guffaw from the moviegoers.”

As for her role as Paloma, Coco said he worked hard to look like a woman.

In “Tonight with Boy Abunda,” he said he didn’t want to look like a drag queen. “I wanted to be a woman, not just a cross-dresser.”

What Coco said was a hallmark of a true actor, added Abunda.

In this intimate gathering, the actor said everything that went well in her Paloma episodes was product of a good preparation.

A sudden transformation: Coco Martin as undercover agent named Paloma: a TV and facebook sensation.

A sudden transformation: Coco Martin as undercover agent named Paloma: a TV and facebook sensation.

He revealed: “I researched way ahead of time. I studied how women behaved in the beauty parlors, how they spend a lot of time in the mirror before a date and what some of them go through to get to the men they like. The makeup artists did well to project my womanly look. On my part, I had to study the heart and psyche of a woman. I didn’t want to pretend like a man trapped in a woman’s dress. What I wanted was to emerge a true woman, not an impersonator.”

The actor also said he learned so many insights into the inner disposition of a woman while preparing for the part. “I often wonder why it takes time for women to prepare before a date. When I was being propped up as a woman, I suddenly realized what women go through just to look good. The next time I go out on a date and my partner really looked beautiful, I will reward that look by being a perfect partner for the night.”

As it turned out, Coco’s Paloma role amused many and by turns surprised fans. They were unanimous in saying the role didn’t detract from the fact that the actor was a true man. Indeed millions on television found the Paloma scenes hilarious and the TV acting coup of the year.

Noted netizen Jhen Mandanas Castillo: “Destiny Rose has found a match in Coco Martin as Paloma. He had enough courage to even try that character.”

Added netizen Leizel Sebious: “It was fun watching Coco as Paloma. It was a big surprise for his fans and he did very well. He is really one of the good actors of this generation.”

A hospital-confined netizen named Marielle Fernandez said she was advised to rest by her doctor but when she saw the actor as Paloma, she was beside herself with too much excitement which the doctor forbid. “I am still talking about that portrayal until now. Looking at Coco as Paloma, I suddenly felt insecure as a woman.”

The reactions didn’t escape the actor. “What I found funny was that in my role as Paloma, many found me a beautiful woman than a good-looking man. Now that is something worth thinking about.”

Then letting out a naughty grin, he said, “Baka pangatawanan ko na eto (I might as well pursue this illusion to the very end).”

But on the whole, “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano” is commendable for playing up the incorruptibility of policemen based in the provinces.

Martin fits the character as he projects raw guts as he pursues lawbreakers especially those who had done his loved ones wrong. When he is finally assigned in the city, the teleserye weaves a parable of evil with a depiction of corrupt police officers in the urban jungle.

Pablo Tariman with Coco Martin during a presscon. Grateful for the new challenges.

Pablo Tariman with Coco Martin during a presscon. Grateful for the new challenges.

On the other hand, it is also a very engrossing teleserye Bottom of FormBottom of Formwith revealing insights on the PMA and police hierarchy. You get resonances of stories of PMA honor students from poor families. The PMA graduation scene reminds you of the curious case of dismissed Philippine Military Academy cadet Jeff Aldrin Cudia and what his family is going through. The police officers at odd with each other are still classic case of homegrown, provincial virtues versus urban corruption.

The family background of the hero reminds me of the simple family life of the late Police Senior Insp. (PSI) Max Jim Ramirez Tria (from Catanduanes) whose burial I attended. He is one of the casualties now known as the ill-fated SAF 44.

The high rating of this teleserye is a sign TV audiences have had enough of silly love stories and are ready for soap reflecting recent breakdown in law and order.

Coco Martin can only be grateful to FPJ for giving him a chance to do a TV remake of the movie. “With all the good feedback from TV viewers and the high ratings, I can only be grateful. If FPJ were alive, I would give him a tight embrace for this big opportunity to reprise his role – at least on TV. FPJ remains an idol of a lifetime.”

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