Ruby Ruiz, ‘ekstra-special’

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Until last year’s Cinemalaya when she won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Ekstra, Vilma Santos’ first indie starrer directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, Ruby Ruiz was just a face in the movie crowd even if she has been appearing in several indie/mainstream movies, some of them directed by Lino Brocka whom Ruby has known since the early days of PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association).

In fact, up to now she easily disappears into the crowd, whether on screen or off it. She’s so self-effacing, “un-Belofied” unlike most women in the industry, that when she walks into Tiago restaurant (#85 Scout Fuentebella, Quezon City) nobody notices her. Her name sounds very-“bold star” but her face is not at all familiar.

The occasion is the presscon for Kasal in which Ruby plays the mother of Arnold Reyes. It’s her fourth indie movie, also including 1st Ko Si 3rd (with Nova Villa and Freddie Webb) and Lihis (as the mother of an activist). Her first movie was Brocka’s 1980 searing drama Bona, inspired by the Fellini classic La Strada, which starred Nora Aunor (as a fan-factotum) and Phillip Salvador (as the idol Nora’s character served like her master), followed by Jaguar (with Phillip and Amy Austria) and Rubia Servios (with Vilma Santos and Mat Ranillo), also both by Brocka.

When direk Jeffrey, a die-hard Vilmanian, learned that Ruby was in Thy Womb, Nora’s starrer by Brillante Mendoza, he teased Ruby, “Kung alam ko lang na Noranian ka, hindi sana kita kinuha dito sa Ekstra” in which Ruby played the mother hen of extras/bit players, one of them played by Vilma who won Best Actress.

Ruby was still a student in UP (Philippine Studies, Batch ‘77) when she started acting. Among her professors was Nic Tiongson and Bien Lumbera (her adviser on her thesis).

“When I won in Cinemalaya,” laughs Ruby, “I was kidding Sir Nic, ‘Jury ba kayo kaya ako nanalo?’ Kasi I couldn’t believe that I won. It’s my first award and I treasure it.”

A single mom (of a 29-year-old daughter who graduated from UP and is in Spain taking a master’s degree in languages), Ruby actually works as an acting coach (now training Isabelle Daza) and, for Kasal, as casting director. Jay Altarejos, the movie’s director, is Ruby’s good friend and a PETA colleague. After Esktra, she has been getting more acting jobs.

Ruby fondly remembers Brocka.

“With Lino, no matter how small your role is, hangga’t hindi nagka-cut ang direcktor, tuluy-tuloy lang ang acting mo. If you have to cry, you have to keep on crying even if the camera doesn’t catch  you.

“In a scene in Ekstra where Vilma’s character is being scolded by the director, napaiyak ako. Direk Jeffrey asked me, ‘Why did you have to cry, eh, defucado ka naman?’ I told direk, ‘Eh, nag-e-empathize ako sa kanya (Vilma’s character).’ That technique I learned from Lino, who kept reminding us, ‘Malay n’yo baka mahagip kayo ng kamera at makita kayo ng ibang director at kunin kayo.’

“Mabait si Lino. He would ask us, ‘Who needs pocket money, allowance? Raise your hands!’ Then, he would hire those who needed money and pay them P300 a day. At that time, for a student malaking halaga na ‘yon.”

She admires Nora for her depth in acting (“Malalim ang pinaghuhugutan”) and how Nora uses her eyes.

“I was scared when Nora stared at me. In a scene in Thy Womb, I was telling her, ‘Huwag n’yo ako tititigan; natatakot ako, eh.’ I played her sister looking for a baby-maker for her and she was looking at me straight in the eye. I said, ‘Huwag mo ako tititigan at nagba-buckle ako’.”

What about Vilma?

“I really like working with her kasi she makes me feel very comfortable. I owe to her my winning in Esktra. She’s easy to work and get along with and she made me very comfortable before the camera, kaya grabe ang pasasalamat ko sa kanya.”

In Kasal, Ruby plays a “small” role, something that the jurors might even notice. But you can never tell. Even an extra can steal a scene from the bida, right?

Jake’s acting surfaces more in indies

Although he has been doing TV shows, it is in indies that Jake Vargas gets to play challenging roles.

In Asintado, directed by Louie Ignacio for the Cinemalaya X’s Directors Showcase, where he plays one of Aiko Melendez’s two sons, Jake is involved in a drug ring without his knowing it. He has never tried drugs and yet, he’s able to flesh out his character convincingly. In another indie, Delusyon (which has been screening in schools), Jake also plays the drug-addict son of Ara Mina.

“Kaya natutuwa ako sa kanya,” said Jake’s manager German “Kuya Germs” Moreno.

Asintado is by far Jake’s most challenging role.

“I’m sure mano-notice siya dito,” added Kuya Germs.

Jake has one more unreleased indie, Bahay Ampunan.

Soon, Jake and his girlfriend Bea Binene will start shooting Liwanag sa Dilim, a mainstream movie produced by Tony Tuviera.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)










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