After languishing for years in small roles, Empoy Marquez hit the big time and couldn’t help shedding tears of joy. Tahan na, Empoy, tahan, as the title of a Lino Brocka classic drama  would say.

Kitang-kita: Kita mo, kita ko!
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - August 5, 2017 - 4:00pm

Nothing succeeds like success.

That oft-quoted line aptly describes Empoy Marquez’s current state of being after Kita Kita, his first starrer with Alessandra “Alex” de Rossi, blasted the box-office. The true feel-good, Kilig Movie of the Year has raked in more than P200 million (as of Tuesday, Aug. 1) so far and is predicted to hit the P300M mark (or more) as soon as it completes its run nationwide. Make way for Empoy, the Man of the Hour.

Pitting the “small” movie (said to have been produced on a shoe-string budget of P10 million) against the proven blockbuster tandem of John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo was a decidedly big gamble. Can you visualize the bosses (Vic del Rosario Jr. and company) of Viva Films and those of Spring Films (Piolo Pascual, Bb. Joyce Bernal and Erickson Raymundo) smiling from ear to ear?

Languishing in small (read: inconsequential) roles for more than a decade, Empoy (full name: Julius Erman Ramos Marquez) used to be just a face in the crowd until he woke up one morning (day after the movie opened) with his world turned 180-degree around. Overnight, he has become the face in the crowd, an unlikely selfie favorite created by what was touted as one half of an “unlikely” love team jokingly referred to as, well, beauty and the beast. Asked by The STAR how she would react if Empoy tried to court her, Alessandra said in jest, “Wala. Busy ako!” (In an interview with Boy Abunda, Alessandra said, holding back tears, that her fondest wish is to buy her family plane tickets from Italy where they are based so they can come to Manila posthaste and watch her first box-office hit.)

Directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo (who also wrote the screenplay), Kita Kita is reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Dolphy’s Dewey Boulevard with its endearing love story about a temporarily-blind girl (Lea) falling for a kind-hearted guy (Tonyo) whom she “sees” only with her heart, with the developing closeness between them (OFWs in Sapporo, Japan) enhanced by the hauntingly beautiful song Two Less Lonely People In The World.

Empoy has revolutionized the image of the Leading Man and he’s shedding tears of joy, absolutely incredulous at the sudden turn of events, a welcome reversal of fortune, still unaffected by his new “title” as Box-Office Prince. The following Conversation had to be reset thrice because Empoy has found himself swamped with offers…and a Kita Kita sequel coming very soon?

How did you feel the morning after Kita Kita was reported to be drawing big crowds to theaters?

“Para akong nananaginip; hindi ako maka-paniwala.”

As of today (Aug. 1 during this interview), the movie has grossed more than P200 million na raw.

“Amen, amen!!!”

You are an overnight sensation. Before Kita Kita, people hardly noticed you. And now, it seems everybody wants to have a selfie with you.

“Hindi ako sanay sa ganito. I am trying to adjust. I was at the mall the other day at nagulat ako sa reaction ng tao. Ang approach sa akin parang Train to Busan. Pero nagpapasalamat ako at minahal nila at niyakap ‘yung pelikula. I didn’t expect the impact created by the movie.”

Your clean-cut look in the movie is a revelation — clean-shaven, well-combed hair and long-sleeved shirt buttoned around the neck. Yon na ba talaga ang magiging look mo?

“Mukhang hindi naligo? Hahahaha!!!”

How long did you and Alessandra stay in Sapporo?

“We were there for 20 days and we shot for 15 days. It was my fourth time to go abroad but my first time in Japan.”

Nakita mo ba ang sarili mo kay Tonyo? Nabasted ka na ba ng isang girl?

“Many times… when I was in high school. Hindi ko na mabilang.”

Those girls might now run after you.

“May mga asawa at mga anak na ang mga ‘yon, hahahaha!!!”

Where did you finish high school?

“In Baliuag, Bulacan. That’s also where I finished college, Masscom. I wanted to be a deejay.”

Were you able to use your degree?

“No. Pero ngayon, hinahanap daw nila ako. The other day, somebody called me; gusto akong kuning deejay. Natawa lang po ako.”

Tinanggap mo ‘yung offer?

“My manager will have to decide.”

Wow, may manager ka na, ha!

“I’ve been with them for only three weeks.”

How did you get into showbiz?

“In 2003, I won the Mr. Swabe contest in Magandang Tanghali Bayan (MTB, hosted at that time by Willie Revillame, Randy Santiago and John Estrada). My prizes were P5,000, P10,000 and then P30,000. When Vhong (Navarro) did the movie Mr. Swabe, kinuha niya ako. After that, more projects followed. Nakasama ko si Jodi Sta. Maria sa Wansapanataym, kinuha ako sa Ok Fine Whatever, Wattamen. Nagtuloy-tuloy na. For one year, I hosted MTB Ang Saya-Saya with Ai-Ai (delas Alas) and Arnel Ignacio. More shows followed na: Super Inggo, Minamahal and Bora-Bora, and two indies, Sa Aking Pagkagising Mula sa Kamulatan and Carnivore which were shown abroad. My big break was Mac & Chiz (TV5) with Derek (Ramsay).”

Weren’t you surprised (“shocked”) when Spring Films offered you Kita Kita?

“At first, I didn’t believe it, until Piolo and direk Joyce personally called me. We had a meeting at puro kami tawanan. At first, the setting was supposed to be Iceland and then The Netherlands. Then the script was revised, so naging Sapporo.”

Click na click kayo ni Alessandra.

“Salamat po!”

What do you like about Alessandra?

“Mabait siya, totoong tao siya, kaya hindi ako naiilang makisama sa kanya. At saka hindi po kami nagkakalayo ng edad. She’s 23 and I am 22.”

You are only 22!?!

(Laughs) “Hindi po. Joke lang! Actually, we are into our early 30s.”

Hindi ka ba nanghihinayang na wala kayong kissing scene ni Alessandra?

“Not at all. Even when she was at GMA, Alex didn’t really want to do kissing scenes. Ako, ayoko rin. I told her, ‘I have to ask my manager first before I do a kissing scene.’ I was joking. Tawa siya nang tawa. Sinampal niya ako, hahahaha!!!”

Do you have a girlfriend?

“None.”

Now you can afford to have as many girlfriends as you want.

“Hahahahahaha!!!”

What do you look for in a girlfriend?

“Yung simple, thoughtful, loving and God-fearing.”

Your family must be very happy for you.

“Opo. Pinaglalaba na nila ako ng briefs ngayon. Joke lang po!”

What kind of family did you come from?

“I am the youngest among seven siblings…hindi po, eldest po ako! I was in Grade 6 when our parents separated. But we are okay. Pinupuntahan ko sila pareho. May tatlong kapatid ako sa Nanay ko, wala sa Tatay ko.”

How will you spend your earnings now? Have you had a house built?

“I have a house already. I won P1 million sa Bingo Nights na hosted ni Kris (Aquino). Dinagdagan ko at ipinagawa ko ng bahay.”

What do you want most now?

“I’m asking for a vacation but they won’t let me yet. Mayroon daw po akong bagong movie, may teleserye at may sitcom.”

I hope you won’t change now that you are a big star.

“I will be like this until the end of my life.”

I’ve heard that from several actors before you.

“Peksman!!!”

 

 

 

 

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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