Denise says no to‘ bold,’ the Japanese in Kenji - FUNFARE by Ricardo f. Lo
() - December 15, 2000 - 12:00am
Because she has "it" (materyales fuertes, you know), Denise Joaquin is constantly being asked by the movie press these days if she has any "plans" to follow in the footsteps of fellow Star Circle graduate Rica Peralejo into the bold-wagon (after torrid, semi-nude scenes with Victor Neri in Star Cinema’s Ex-Con, she’s going even bolder in Viva Films’ Balahibong Pusa, topbilled by the ex-sweethearts Joyce Jimenez and Jay Manalo).

"Mahirap magsalita ng patapos,"
said Denise who’s co-starring with the Streetboys in the MAQ Films Metro Filmfest 2000 entry Spirit Warriors, "but if I really wanted to do it, I should have done it four years ago when I was still in school (Christ The King Academy) and before I joined (the currently inactive) Premiere Productions as a contract star."

As early as when she was 15 (she’s turning 19 on Sunday, Dec. 17), Denise has been receiving movie offers, the early ones for bold roles.

"The talent scouts were telling me, ‘Lead role ka kaagad, bida ka kaagad, ayaw mo n’un?’," recalled Denise (Angelica Domingo in real life) who’s one of two daughters. "But I refused to be lured by the offers. Had I gone bold, e, di sana laos na ako ngayon."

She didn’t mind going through the hard grind, starting at 16 as a contract star of Premiere Productions for which she did three movies – Nagmumurang Kamatis (as Kikay, daughter of Eddie Garcia who was paired with Boots Anson Roa), as a lost barrio girl in the remake of Anak ng Bulkan and as the submissive girlfriend of Jao Mapa (whatever happened to him?) in Matrikula. Because Premiere folded up, Denise’s three-year (good for six pictures) contract with it lapsed. So she decided to move to ABS-CBN/Star Cinema which launched her as a member of Star Circle batch 6.

"But I did ask the permission of Tito Cirio (Santiago) and Tito Ernie (Rojas), Premiere bosses, before I signed up with (the ABS-CBN’s) Talent Center."

At ABS-CBN, Denise is seen regularly on the Sunday sitcom Richard Loves Lucy (and on Labs Ko si Babe until it folded up recently). For one year, she, along with Tracy Vergel and Aurora Halili, opened the noontime show Magandang Tanghali Bayan (MTB) as a dancing trio. Asked if it’s true that she quit MTB to stay away from John Estrada who was reportedly courting her, Denise expressed surprise. "Bakit? Nanligaw ba sa akin si John? As far as I know, he never did. He, together with Randy (Santiago) and Willie (Revillame), the two other MTB hosts, were like my kuya. They were nice to me. You know what, kung gusto kong magloko, doon na lang sa walang asawa, di ba?" (John is married to Janice de Belen, as if you didn’t know.)

Wise girl, isn’t she?

Neither did twice-over-unwed-father Joko Diaz become her boyfriend, according to Denise.

"Joko and I did watch a Side A concert pero marami kaming nanood. I had my two cousins with me, their three friends and two Talent Center handlers. You see, I’m a big fan of Side A and during one of their concerts, nagyaya ako sa mga kasama ko sa Rave (a Star Drama Theater presentation) manood, KKB (kanya-kanyang bayad), and it was only Joko who came along."

Thus far, said Denise, she has had only two showbiz boyfriends, Justin Cuyugan (her Star Circle batch-mate) and Steven Alonso (also from Talent Center).

"Magulo ang may
boyfriend," smiled Denise. "It’s really a matter of choice. In the meantime, I’m choosing to concentrate on my career."

Wise girl nga, isn’t she?
* * *
A lot of showbiz-watchers are wondering how much of a Japanese Kenji Motoki is, the very-Japanese-looking newcomer being introduced as a Japanese officer in Gil M. Portes’ bold outing for Crown-Seven Ventures, Inc.’s Gatas which launches Mylene Dizon to (bold) stardom.

Well, what you see is what you get. Kenji does look Japanese so he should be Japanese, but he’s very Filipino at heart. His real name is Jose Manuel Marquez Laurel (nicknamed Chema) and his relatives are showbiz na showbiz, including Cocoy Laurel who’s his uncle, Franco Laurel who’s his cousin and talent-manager-writer Bibsy Carballo who is his aunt (Bibsy being a cousin of Kenji’s father).

Although based in Vancouver, Kenji lived in Japan during his grandfather Jose Laurel’s stint there as ambassador. But he finished college at the University of Vancouver (Business Management).

How did Kenji bag the coveted role in Gatas (to be shown first week of January, 2001)?

Gil issued press releases for the search (of a handsome Japanese) and Joji Dingcong, Kenji’s manager, read it in this section. Joji called up direk Gil posthaste and told him, "I’ve found your Japanese officer!" One look at Kenji and direk Gil exclaimed, "Eureka!" His assistant director, Armand Reyes, echoed, "Perfect for the role!"

Kenji was at once put in an acting workshop with Gina Alajar and as soon as shooting started, he was acting as if he had been acting all his life (and to think that his experience was confined mostly to modeling).
In Gatas, Kenji as the kind-hearted Japanese officer sets free Jomari Yllana and in gratitude, Jomari’s wife (Mylene) agrees to be a wet nurse to Kenji’s child by a Filipina killed in the encounter.

Now, has Kenji Motoki passed the acid test?

"For a newcomer who has no acting experience," said direk Gil, "he’s good, very good!"

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