‘No shortcuts’ to acting success

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda - The Philippine Star

Award-winning actress Angeli Bayani has teaching in her DNA. The artist, top Taiwanese director Ang Lee called a National Treasure, who beat Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos in the 2014 Urian Best Actress race for Lav Diaz’s Norte, has a teacher for a mom.

Angeli is proud of that.

“My mom was the only girl in the family, and one of her brothers sacrificed his own education so she can leave Aparri to study in Manila. She specializes in early education and got her master’s degree when I was in college,” says Angeli who stars in the upcoming indie film Maestra.

It was dear mom who taught Angeli the value of reading because “you can only speak well if you read a lot.”

What stuck most in her mind, however, are the practical skills Angeli’s mom taught her.

“She taught me how to learn by doing,” says Angeli. As early as first grade, she’d get the broom and sweep the floor. She washed the dishes, making sure her soapy hands held each platter or bowl tight lest they slip away, fall and break.

Today, the housework of her childhood has taught Angeli to stay humble despite the accolades she’s been getting here and abroad.

Perseverance is another lesson she learned early in life. Angeli can’t forget the day her Physics teacher in fourth year high school caught her cheating. When Angeli visited the faculty room to apologize, the future actress learned a lesson she’ll never forget.

After she explained that she did the unthinkable for someone with a good track record like her out of desperation, Angeli’s teacher told her, “If you’re desperate to get a passing grade, study. Do everything to pass.”

Those words haunt Angeli to this day. It made her realize that there are no shortcuts in life, as it is in school.

“If you want to excel, you have to do everything it takes to shine. There’s no other way. You have to do it step by step. The pace — slow or fast — doesn’t matter. What matters is you must go through everything.”

This is why portraying Gennie Panguelo, the 56-year-old half-Aeta para-teacher who walked four hours through miles across hills and rivers daily to teach young Aetas at the Tarukan Elementary School, brings tears to Angeli’s eyes.

She felt Gennie’s sacrifices and love for her students. Riding a four-by-four to reach the school in Capas, Tarlac, a distance Gennie traveled on foot for 25 years, seemed to be a mortal sin.

“I was surprised that she stayed on the job for 25 years,” adds Angeli. “That’s how much she loves her work. She’d go to the local government office before the start of each school year and get permission to teach. No one wanted the job, so she was allowed to teach even if she wasn’t duly licensed for the job.”

Angeli relates that Gennie was forced to leave the hills and head to Manila when local government officials asked her to get a teacher’s license. So she studied again.

“Miss Gennie didn’t give up. She didn’t take shortcuts because she had a goal,” explains Angeli.

She shares the same thing to her 10-year-old son each time Angeli guides him in school work.

“I show my son how something as basic as reading is a step-by-step process. You start with one or two syllables. Then you move on.”

She also tells students in her acting classes that knowing their intention for enrolling is the first step in learning. “You don’t become an actor overnight. You must start from the very beginning. And the best way to do this is by searching your heart and knowing why you’re taking the class in the first place.”

Angeli can go on and on. And all because she was blessed to have good teachers — at home, in school, theater (Tanghalang Pilipino) and film — to show her the way.

Maestra is directed by Lem Lorca. — With reports from Almed Garcia and Julian Mauricio


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