Valeen: I hope I’m giving justice to Montenegro name

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Valeen: I hope I�m giving justice to Montenegro name
Valeen Montenegro with The Write Moment leading man Jerald Napoles (no relation to you-know-who): Their chemistry is infectious…

Being a Montenegro is a big responsibility and Valeen Montenegro knows it.

“He’s so guapo, isn’t he?” exclaimed Valeen, describing in the present tense the grandfather that she wasn’t fortunate to meet and know closely.

Valeen’s lolo was the iconic actor Mario Montenegro, touted as The Brown Adonis in Danny Dolor’s Remember When? column last Sunday (June 17) because of his “brown skin, handsome face and well-sculpted physique” which was the favorite fantasy of women in the ‘50s, playing heroic roles like Prinsipe Tenoso, Rodrigo de Villa, Lapu-Lapu, Dagohoy and, probably the most memorable, as the Mighty Thor (who saved the kingdom of the Vikings from the invaders, the Tartars). Produced by People’s Pictures, Thor pre-dated two Hollywood movies. As a painter, Mario signed with his real name: Roger Collin Macalalag.

“I would have posed for him for a painting,” rued Valeen. “My two siblings were luckier. Our lolo did a painting of them.”

Mario was a hero even off camera. Remember When? writer RKC noted that during World War II, Mario at 14 joined the Hunters ROTC Guerillas and assisted in the liberation of the Los Baños concentration camp internees. He was given eight medals and awards for valor in the military service.

At the presscon the other day for The Write Moment, directed by newcomer Dominic Lim with Jerald Napoles (no relation to you-know-who), Funfare showed Valeen a copy of that Sunday’s STAR carrying Danny’s column and she looked lovingly at her lolo’s picture, repeating herself, “He’s really so handsome!” Mario was said to have a “perfect face,” so well-defined like that of Denzel Washington, both sides of whose face look exactly the same. That face sent ladies to dreamland (including a respected lady producer who was vocal about her “crush” on Mario who died at the tender age of 60 in August 1988). Mario was married to returned LVN actress Letty Alonzo with whom he had several children, one of them one-time beauty queen Honeylet Montenegro, Valeen’s mother.

...and lovingly posing with a picture of her grandfather, the iconic actor Mario Montenegro, who was featured in Danny Dolor’s column Remember When? last Sunday, June 17: I didn’t get to know him closely because he died two years before I was born.

“My lolo died two years before I was born,” said Valeen with a tone of panghihinayang (regret), “and all I have are ‘photographic’ memories from my lola’s albums and scrapbooks. My lola was fond of collecting pictures of my lolo and stories about him. She would also make me kuwento about their love moments at kilig na kilig naman ako.”

It’s a pity that Valeen hasn’t seen her Lolo Mario’s movies, except for one, Tatlong Labuyo.

“But only portions of it,” clarified Valeen. “Being a Montenegro is a big responsibility and I know that. I hope I live up to it.”

If Mario were alive, would he be proud of her?

“Hopefully,” Valeen laughed. “Oh my gosh, hopefully talaga, ha! I don’t want to assume. Hindi ako assumera,” adding, “but I am doing my best to give justice to our surname because I know that grabe rin naman ang contribution ng lolo ko sa movie industry.”

She’s sure, though, that her Lola Letty, now in her late 80s, is very proud of her.

“She now stays mostly at home,” shared Valeen. “She always tells me how happy she is when she watches me on TV, so if I have a palabas I make sure that I text to remind her at inaabangan talaga niya.”

For sure, Valeen will invite her Lola Letty to watch The Write Moment (which premiered at the QCinema last year and starts its commercial run nationwide on Wednesday, June 27). Produced by IdeaFirst Company and Viva Films with CMB Films, The Write Moment was inspired by direk Dominic’s love story which has, in his words, “no closure, that ended without any explanation,” thus leaving loose ends. It answers the question: What do you do when the love of your life, the woman you dream of growing old with, suddenly breaks up with you for the most cliché of reasons of simply growing tired of your relationship?

It is Valeen and Jerald’s first movie together. Thankfully, they have grown close to and comfortable with each other on their GMA show Sunday PinaSaya where Valeen is the “secret” crush of the boys (especially Ruru Madrid). “We have inside jokes na hindi maka-relate ang madla,” dismissing the Ruru rumor as maybe “only puppy love,” prompting columnist/dzRH showbiz host Gorgy Rula to remark, “pero hindi na bata si Ruru,” and therefore he’s no longer a “puppy” but, ehem, a “doggie.”

Explained Valeen, “I am just friendly and maybe people misinterpret my friendliness for something else.”

Contrary to the persistent rumor (which Valeen has neither confirmed nor denied) accusing her of being the “third party” in the breakup of a showbiz couple, Valeen has nothing to do with the actress’ husband. In fact, she has been happily going steady with a non-showbiz businessman who is her partner in a café/dance studio business. Yes, Valeen is a good dancer.

“As much as possible,” she said, “ayoko ng taga-showbiz na boyfriend. If you want to know what qualities I want in a boyfriend, he must be somebody na kayang maging serious at kayang magbaliw-baliwan like me. I want balance in a relationship.”

In the same breath, she described leading man Jerald as baliw.

“We click dahil pareho kaming baliw,” Valeen laughed. “I love the guy. He takes care of me, even if he bullies me sometimes. The good thing is that we have chemistry. I read a quotation somewhere that says, ‘If you already have chemistry, you only need one more thing — timing.’ Jerald and I do have chemistry and we use it to our advantage.”

Direk Dominic agreed.

“Sobrang okey ka-trabaho,” he said of both Valeen and Jerald. “I have no experience in directing and they have been very helpful. Sometimes, mayroon silang ideas na binabato and we would discuss them. They saw some aspects of the characters and we would incorporate them into their performance. About Valeen, I just love her face. She’s so beautiful, maganda kahit anong anggulo.”

When Valeen heard that, she exclaimed, “Talaga, direk? I don’t want to be assumera pero thank you na rin!”

Auditions for kids for Lion King international tour

Michael Cassel Group, in association with Disney Theatrical Productions, announces open call auditions for the children’s roles in Disney’s The Lion King.

Following the huge success of the Manila season, which ended last May 27, the musical’s International Tour is now auditioning for boys and girls ages seven to 12 for the roles of Young Simba and Young Nala to join the tour throughout Asia.

The search is on for confident children with personality, natural actors/singers who can move well. Previous performing experience is not necessary. Height limit is 147 cm. (58 inches).

Auditions will be held at Philippine Opera Haus, 3657 Bautista St., Barangay Palanan, Makati City from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 23. Registration closes at 4 p.m.

“The Philippines is rich with wonderfully talented performers and we are excited to welcome to the cast young Filipino actors who will join performers from South Africa and around the world in bringing this show to audiences around Asia and beyond,” commented Cassel, producer of the international tour.

The international tour is preparing to open its season in Singapore. After Singapore, the tour will enjoy engagements in South Korea and Taiwan, with other engagements to be announced.

Children will be asked to prepare the last verse of Just Can’t Wait to be King and bring with them a 3R headshot, birth certificate, a parent/guardian’s written consent, and be prepared to fill out a registration form upon arrival. Each child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Any child that is cast in the production must be prepared to travel internationally with a parent/guardian.

(For further inquiries, call the Children’s Casting Director-Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group at: +63-650-5144 or 0917-8381534.)

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

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