The girl behind the Panget story
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2014 - 12:00am

As I was saying, if the over 12 million who read Diary ng Panget on would troop to the theaters when the movie version (produced by Viva Films and directed by Andoy Ranay from a screenplay by Mel Mendoza-del Rosario) opens on April 2, then it would definitely be a hit and hopefully usher in a new genre.

When I read the three books written by Denny (a pen name sans surname), a.k.a. HaveYouSeenThisGirl, in three bedtimes, the characters seemed to leap out of the pages and that’s what makes the Diary very entertaining, making you feel as if you are poking into somebody’s diary and  intruding into her privacy.

I’m eager to find out how the actors will flesh out the characters that have become all too familiar to the book’s followers (mostly adolescents). Take your pick:

• Andre Paras, the 6’4.5” UP Fighting Maroons player, as the hopeless romantic Chad Jimenez who is one of the campus crushes in Willford Academy. What makes him likeable is his genuine kindness especially toward Eya, the story’s main protagonist. It’s his movie debut.

• Nadine Lustre (poor girl, she has been being unfairly bashed by those against Nadine being described as “a Kathryn Bernardo lookalike”) as Rhea “Eya” Rodriguez, a poor, acne-infested girl hired as a personal maid of Cross Sandford, a star athlete, commercial model and Student Council president at Willford who, true to his name, never runs out of ways to “cross” Eya. Nadine has appeared in movies (Who’s That Girl?, Petrang Kabayo and When The Love is Gone) and TV shows (TV5’s Bagets and P.S. I Love You).

• James Reid, the half-Filipino/half-Australian winner of Pinoy Big Brother Teen Clash 2010, as Cross Sanford, a character who, said James, is opposite of what he really is. “I am shy,” admitted James. To play Cross, he underwent an acting workshop with Pen Medina.

• Yassi Pressman as Lorraine “Lory” Keet who is, like her, half-British/half-Filipina, beautiful inside-out, the best friend of Eya and the big crush of Chad whom Lory ignores since she is all eyes on Cross. She hosts MTV Shoutout on MTV Pinoy. She was called “Princess of the Dancefloor” on the defunct GMA noontime show Party Pilipinas (now Sunday All Stars).

Here last year for the Manila International Book Fair, her first homecoming since she left for Italy in 2010 to join her mom (Paulina Campo, a nurse who works in a medical facility for the elderly there; her dad is a resort manager in Laguna), Denny is back to help promote the movie.

The youngest among three children (all in Italy), Denny was born in San Pablo, Laguna, where she finished elementary and high school at San Pablo Colleges. She’s a Graphic Advertising senior at a university in Italy.

Here’s Funfare’s interview with Denny (who got her pen name from the clothing brand Denny Rose) before the presscon proper last Friday:

Are you happy with the movie’s casting?

“Oo naman po. Super happy!”

Do you think the actors fit the characters?

“Yes, yes! Bagay na bagay si Nadine na Eya.”

At the end of the book, you revealed that the story is fiction. Are the characters based on real persons?

“No, they are not. Actually, in the book I changed the ending that came out on”

What’s the real ending?

“Eya and Cross meet at the airport because Cross is leaving.”

How will the movie end?

“I still don’t know. What I’ve seen so far is the trailer.”

Are you sure the books are not based on your own love life?

(Laughs) “Ay, hindi po! Wala po akong love life.” (She turned 20 last Feb. 11.)

How long did it take you to finish writing the books?

“Almost one year. I would write one chapter every day and upload it on Just like writing a diary.”

Did you plan how the story from beginning to end?

“No, I did not. Doon lang ako nag-iisip sa harap ng computer. Just like the readers, I was also curious what would happen to the characters. Nag-o-oido-flow lang ako kung ano ang isusulat ko.”

Do you have a diary?

“No. Hindi ako mahilig mag-diary.”

Why did you call your books Diary ng Panget if you’re not a diary-writer?

“At that time, what I wanted was something simple na nakaka-relax. So I thought of a plot na pinaka-cliché — isang pangit na girl na hindi mayaman, isang boy na mayaman at masungit. I didn’t want something complicated.”

Which character do you identify with?

“Actually, all of them. There’s an Eya in me, a Lory in me and even a Chad and a Cross in me.”

How did your books change your life?

“My life is still the same. Never had any boyfriend, concentrate muna sa studies.”

Who is your crush among the actors?

“Right now? Si James Reid. Iba ang charisma niya, eh. I just met him a while ago.”

(E-mail reactions at


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