Monina Diaz’s journey with Arnel Pineda
FAMILY JEWELS - Michelle Dayrit-Soliven (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Ever since Ramona S. Diaz was a little girl, she had always yearned for creative adventures. She is fondly called Monina by her classmates at Assumption where she spent her grade school and high school days preparing for a meaningful life.

Monina went to Emerson College in Boston for her undergraduate studies.

She pursued film editing, production, writing and directing.  She first worked in LA as part of the writing and editing team of exciting shows such as Remington Steele and The Mary Tyler Moore Show productions.

She then returned to Manila to work as assistant editor for the show Apple Pie, Patis at Iba Pa before pursuing her master’s in Communication at Stanford University.

She developed a passion for documentary films.

Included in her award-winning films are Imelda, Spirits Rising and The Learning.

Her generosity of heart in wanting to give back brings Monina again to her motherland this month to share her amazing documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, which follows the real life rock ‘n roll fairy tale of Arnel Pineda, the Filipino singer who was plucked from YouTube to become the front man for iconic American rock band Journey. In this Cinderella-like story, Arnel having overcome a lifetime’s worth of hardships, must now navigate the immense pressures of replacing a legendary singer and leading a world renowned band on its most extensive world tour in years.

Monina enthusiastically shares what sparked the idea of her wanting to make this film. “It was the winter of 2008 when an e-mail from a friend caught my attention. It was titled ‘Best US Embassy Visa Application Story I’ve Ever Heard.’ As a Filipino living in America, I was very familiar with these sometimes funny, but mostly sad stories of trying to get to the promised land. I read it and was in stitches,” Monina says.

Monina explains that the e-mail was written by one of the immigration agents at the American Embassy in Manila. “And it was about this guy Arnel Pineda, who said that the reason he was going to the US was that he was invited by the band Journey to audition for lead vocals. ‘Journey? The rock band Journey?’ the immigration officer asked Arnel who nodded meekly as he showed the officer some flimsy e-mail correspondences from the band.

“In a dubious voice, the agent asked Arnel to sing Wheel in the Sky. Arnel belted it out loud enough for the entire waiting room to stop and listen to an amazing rendition of an old classic. Then the officer said: ‘Look sir, there isn’t a person in this Embassy who would believe that story — going to try out for Journey! So I tell you what, I’m giving you that visa. And  you’re going to try out. And you’re going to make it.’ The e-mail ends with a clip of Arnel singing Faithfully,” Monina shares.

As Monina watched the film clip, she got the biggest goose bumps. She googled Arnel and discovered that he did get the gig and was now about to record and go on tour with Journey. She forwarded the e-mail to her manager in Los Angeles, Peter McHugh, with a note saying someone should really make a documentary about Arnel Pineda. Peter e-mailed Monina right back saying, “YOU SHOULD. I will track down their management.”

“And so the film came to its successful fruition. As Capella Brogden, Josh Greene (executive producer) and I have travelled to film festivals the world over, it is apparent to us that audiences young and old feel a powerful kinship with Arnel. Over and over again, the hearty bursts of applause and standing ovations have overwhelmed us. Audiences truly like Arnel, they want him to succeed, they root for him because his success affirms that in this crazy world we live in, good things happen to good people. He truly is everyman,” Monina says.

Monina resists calling her latest venture a documentary. “It is a documentary that has, at its center, a profoundly charismatic figure with a great story to tell. And yes, it also has great music. You will leave the theater humming.”

Andie Recto-Montenegro, compassionate president of Assumption High School batch ‘79 and a very close friend of Monina, shares, “It is so timely that for our Jade anniversary this year, we were looking for a meaningful activity. I am so touched that Monina so generously offered her film for our class fundraising event. The timing is just great as our batch pledged to support the AAA project ‘Assumption cares for Mercedes’.” Mercedes is a community in Eastern Samar that was badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

The movie will be shown on July 24 at the Rockwell Powerplant Cinema 6 with two showings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are at sold at P1,000 each.

Here’s hoping that you will watch and enjoy Monina Diaz’s film Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey with your loved ones; and be able to help provide homes for the gentle people of Mercedes.

May God draw you into His love and bring your generous hearts to attend this most meaningful, enjoyable fundraiser.


(For tickets, please call 0917-5381920 (Alabang), 0917-8306883 (Makati), 0917-6187870 (San Juan/Quezon City) or Assumption San Lorenzo at 894-3561.)


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