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Ping Medina: The actor and the ghost of rockstar past

imageWe are at the Heritage Park Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio. The film spool starts to run. A motley crew of mourners that suspiciously look like a flock of production assistants and grips try their best to act solemn. A good distance from them stands Pupil guitarist Yan Yuzon, who occasionally moonlights as an independent film actor. Beside him is Ping Medina, on his arm a Henna tattoo filigree. The director shouts his instructions. A beat. An imagined tumbleweed rolls by. Then Medina cracks probably what is the saddest smile in the world.


We are on the set of a friend’s thesis film, and it just hit me that this one Crispin C. Medina II, the son of legendary actor Pen Medina, is perhaps one of the most brilliant young actors working in the industry right now. Music video director Marie Jamora can only attest, "When he does this certain expression on his face, it’s like 10 or 20 emotions are going on in his mind."


Medina’s first big break came in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal, playing the young Paciano Rizal, with the senior Medina playing his grown-up counterpart. "They needed a younger version of my dad, and they needed not to look further since I’m a chip off the old block," he says with a hint of a smile.


His father, Pen, who has played a gamut of roles from evil wizard to doting father, is one of the most respected veteran actors in the Philippines today, not far from the likes of Joel Torre and Johnny Delgado. The young Medina cites his father as one of his biggest influences, "Definitely, my dad had a huge influence on me. He’s like barkada, and he gives me the best advice. The essential lessons in acting, the basic stuff, I got from him."


His turn as the eponymous character’s protective brother in digital film juggernaut and now Oscar contender Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros sealed him as one of the most promising actors of his generation. In between sips of iced tea, Medina waxes on the film’s impact on the industry, "Maxi is the film that everybody took a cue from, and now almost every week there’s a digital film out there hoping to do what Maxi did. It’s basically the film that started this sudden boom in digital films."


Recently, Medina played the coveted role of Teddy Diaz, the late founding member of The Dawn, in Cinemalaya 2007’s Best Full Length Feature Film Tulad ng Dati. It’s an acclaimed performance, sending fans and close friends of the murdered rockstar petrified upon watching Medina’s convincing portrayal. It’s a role that entailed hard work, though. Lots of it.


Medina says, "It was my first time playing a real person so I had to do a lot of research. Teddy was this really enigmatic and shy person that people didn’t really know much about. He was a good man."


In prepping for his role, Medina scoured the Internet, met with the people who knew Diaz and repeatedly watched a bootlegged concert tape of Diaz playing his guitar with a violin bow, that his director Mike Sandejas found. Sandejas took a painstaking hands-on approach in re-creating the character, sending Medina into several sessions of make-up and wig tests. "Mike was very anal about it. I had more days in pre-production doing research than the actual shooting days themselves!" Medina says, laughing.


The young actor who pays a stark resemblance to Gael Garcia-Bernal, keeps a credo close to his heart when approaching his craft, "The most important thing is looking for something new and exciting that will make your character memorable. Try to abstain from the orthodox."


The camera continues to roll. Medina banters with Yuzon about their dearly departed friend. Yuzon, who plays a motor-mouth insurance salesman, says a funny line. Medina cracks a smile. Once again, it’s the saddest smile in the world.

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Comments, suggestions and other wicked thoughts are welcome. Send them to wincy_ong@yahoo.com

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