MANILA, Philippines - Apart from acting out challenging roles like that of her contravida character Gov. Emilia Ardiente-Torillo on ABS-CBN’s revenge-themed drama series Wildflower, Aiko Melendez is eager to try her hand at film directing.
“Ever since, it’s been my dream to direct,” Aiko told The STAR in a pocket interview last Thursday. “And I am going to study it this year and hopefully, by God’s grace, I’d be able to start on something for directing.”
According to Aiko, it was during a meeting of artists belonging to the Asian Artists Agency, Inc. (AAAI) when Boy Abunda, the firm’s top honcho, told her that she’s going to venture not only into acting but also into directing. “My interest in becoming a director grew stronger last year when I and Ogie Diaz started handling acting workshops. I am one of the coaches of Ogie’s students and I already handled three classes then Tito Boy suggested that since I am already into coaching for acting why not try directing also. It’s really my dream to direct because I was looking at Jodi Foster’s career path. She’s an award-winning actress and then she ventured into directing.”
Besides, Aiko has been giving suggestions and creative ideas every time she’s on the set. “Nakikialam ako minsan sa mga ilaw, kung saan ba mas maganda so parang they saw my potential na pwede daw ako mag-direk. I came from politics also so the leadership quality is there because when you are directing, you must possess leadership quality. Sabi ni Tito Boy ituloy mo na ‘yan, pag-aaralin kita for directing.”
These days, AAAI is helping out Aiko find a school that offers a film direction course. The actress said they are eyeing a seminar or crash course in Hong Kong and Singapore scheduled in July. “I hope to join in the batch this July. But since I am taping for Wildflower, maybe I can ask for a few days off like three to five days for the course.” She, too, is looking at the possibility of enrolling at UP if and when her schedule doesn’t allow her to be away for a long time.
But Aiko is quick to clarify that she is far from feeling burned out by acting. “My heart belongs to acting (because) that’s my first love and I will forever be grateful to acting because this is my avenue for getting into directing also. So, kung pwede naman two-in-one (read: as actor and director) then why not.” She is in the acting scene since she was six. Regal Films discovered her in the late ‘80s with whom she signed a contract and became one of its Regal Babies.
She is happy that her star still shines bright after many years of being in showbiz even though the local entertainment scene is now flooded with new actors aiming for stardom. That’s why, Aiko feels blessed for being very much visible until this day. “It really pays that you take your craft seriously, never stop learning and be mindful of the people around you and take care of the people who you know will help you along the way,” said Aiko.
In order to give back the blessings, Aiko spends her Sundays as a coach in an acting workshop and “at the same time, I consider it also a form of bonding with my kids. I let them come to my class like Andrei, he’s one of my students during my last class session. Kasi dream din ni Tito Boy and Ogie for me and Andrei to work in one project together. Si Andrei has this wall sa ‘kin because it’s difficult when you are working with your son. I told myself that I’m going to break the wall and thankfully, during the two days that we had a workshop, I was able to break and enter into his wall. Andre is under Star Magic. At first, he really didn’t like to work with me but now he feels comfortable already because of the workshop. I hope we can do MMK first, that’s going to be a good avenue for both of us.”
Aiko shared that she couldn’t help but feel anxious when Andrei decided to enter showbiz. “But it pays to have a good relationship with God. I really prepared Andrei like pinag-church ko siya, I asked him to read the Bible kasi sa showbiz ang laki ng kita,” she said. “And for somebody as young as Andrei he can earn much. How can he be able to handle it without being persuaded dun sa masamang values?”
She continued, “Si Jom (Jomari Yllana, Andrei’s dad) I obliged him to devote his time with Andrei so we can still instill good values in him even if we are separated. At 18, Andrei needs more of a father figure. Iba pa din kasi ang presence ng daddy.”
Asked if she initially hesitated accepting her contravida role in Wildflower due to her being a Christian, Aiko said she first talked to (business unit head) direk Ruel Bayani about it. “I told him I don’t want to be a contravida all the way without redeeming value and a background. If you get to know the character of Emilia, you will sympathize with her. She is a wife to a philandering husband and that makes their relationship ugly, plus she had a lonely childhood because she was a battered child.”
In fact, there are televiewers who sympathize with Emilia. “It’s because I requested for my character to have a redeeming value that eventually, or in the end, the series will show why I became ‘evil.’ If not, then it would contradict my faith and belief in life.”
However, there are some who keep bashing her online. “Minumura ako and there was this tweet telling they will hit me with an umbrella,” she related. “Even my daughter (Marthena, 10, and a Grade 6 pupil at Poveda) came up to me and said that I am so bad and her classmates are afraid of me.” What’s good about it is that Aiko has learned that the soap is being watched by people regardless of social standing. Her acting approach has also been proven effective based on the audiences’ mixed reactions.
Does she plan to direct a TV series in the future?
“Mas gusto ko muna mga short films then full-length film and eventually for TV na. I already have in mind a concept for my first project which is dark (in theme),” said Aiko, who was recently launched as the newest brand ambassador of Contours. Her svelte and proportioned figure is the result of her recent Vaser 4D Tummy Tuck procedure.