Juan Rodrigo: Natural on screen & off
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark () - February 16, 2006 - 12:00am
Juan Rodrigo can easily pass as a walking advertisement of clean living. He doesn’t smoke nor drink. He watches his weight, subscribes to an organic diet rich in fruits and vegetables and shuns meat like the plague.

"I changed my eating habits when I started gaining weight," he says. "My cholesterol was going up because my meals had too much oil."

So he rediscovered the wonders of good old papaya, cucumber, carrots and calamansi. Juan put his degree in BS Chemistry (Far Eastern University) and his experience as former product analyst at Unilever to good use once more by concocting organic mixtures that can be sprinkled into food to make them tastier without harming one’s health.

Juan formed Natural and Organic Way (NOW) with friends. NOW manufactures and distributes herbal soap, perfume, organic seasoning, and others. Although it has yet to go wholesale, NOW has taken the first steps in that direction by joining trade fairs that will give their products high visibility to decision makers.

Juan himself is the epitome of fitness. At an age when other men hide their paunch in loose shirts and dark-colored polo, Juan’s stomach shows no tell-tale bulges. The face moviegoers saw in Mula sa Puso in 1998, and in many a soap series, has not changed. The guy practises what he preaches, never mind if he can’t avoid late nights because of his singing engagements in hotels and lounges.

Juan makes a movie comeback in Rosas Entertainment’s Mga Batang Bangketa, with Camille Prats, Marco Alcaraz and other young talents. Like in his previous movies, Juan is a father. But what makes this different, and exciting for Juan is that instead of playing the kind, doting head of the family, he turns into a bitter, violent dad to his young brood. Juan’s character vents his wrath on his philandering wife on his children, led by the eldest, Camille.

In disgust, the children take to the streets of Manila and taste poverty first-hand (thus the title Mga Batang Bangketa).

"It’s a welcome change for me. That’s why I accepted the role right after reading the script," says Juan.

Some of his young co-stars admit getting intimidated in their scenes with the more veteran Juan Rodrigo. But he tells them there is nothing to fear. They should instead relax and feel their roles.

Aside seeing professionalism at work through Juan and their other senior co-stars like Melissa Mendez, the other young talents in the movie (Michelle Rodriguez, Pierro Rodriguez III, Zaira Mate, Jocel Escobal, Myko Suntay, Cyline Suntay and Rowell Reyes) learned a lesson or two on dealing with life’s trials.

"Poverty is no hindrance to a better life. Even if you’re poor, you can improve yourself by using your God-given talents the right way," the teen talents chorus.

True enough, it’s their singing talent in the movie that saves the young people’s necks in the end.

In real life, Myko, Cyline, Zaira, Pierro, Jocel, Rowell and Michelle were chosen from thousands of applicants to form Mus’ka, an acting and singing group that performs in various malls like SM, Farmers Plaza, Ali Mall, Ever Gotesco and Star Malls. Mus’ka has also released a debut album and a VCD.

No wonder Rosas producer Menchu Suntay decided to give Mus’ka a break, this time on the big screen.

Suntay, who took over as director of Mga Batang Bangketa after AJ de Guzman, the man originally hired for the job, left the project hanging, has submitted the film to the Education Department for endorsement. And she got it. Now, Mga Batang Bangketa has the thumbs-up from the DepEd itself.

"This is so heartening. It makes my troubles all worthwhile," Suntay says. So proud is she of her movie she also plans to field Mga Batang Bangketa in international filmfests.

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