Gina Alajar and her directing niche
(The Freeman) - May 25, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Putting her stellar acting career to good use, actress-turned-TV director Gina Alajar recently rolled up her sleeves and got up close and personal with Cebu talents for a one-day acting workshop.

After more than 10 years since her last workshop here, Direk Gina was nothing short of excited. Finding a little window between directing the upcoming GMA-7 series “Extraordinary Love” (eyed to hit the GMA Telebabad primetime block by August, starring Mikee Quintos, Kate Valdez, Jo Berry, Nora Aunor, Cherie Gil, Wendell Ramos, Adrian Alandy, and Gardo Versoza) and acting in the afternoon drama “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka,” the 58-year-old industry veteran was upbeat as she introduced both young and old to the craft of acting and improvisation.

“Because it’s such a short time, most of them nakikita ko are very shy and not sure of themselves yet,” she muses over lunch as students sprawled at the Pioneer Premiere Hall in Panagdait, Mabolo, waiting for the session to resume.

“Mailabas ko lang sila sa kanilang shell, and that they would discover lang na pwede ko pala gawin ito para sa sarili ko, I am more than happy for them. Makita ko lang na ang laki ng leap nila from the first hour in the morning kanina hanggang sa ending namin. Kung merong pagbabago, that’s a victory for me,” Direk Gina says of what she hopes to leave her students.

Although directing a project almost every year since 2012, this is the first time she is acting in a soap and directing another one at the same time.

“It’s good except I’m usually tired because I’m working more or less five to six days a week. But you know God has been so good because he’s been taking care of my schedule,” Direk Gina quips.

Her acting job is on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while her Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are dedicated for directing. Direk Gina claims everything has been bearable so far as she strives to finish before 12 a.m. for “Hindi Ko Kayang Iyang Iwan Ka” and “Extraordinary Love.”

The award-winning actress reveals she had not intended to take the reins off camera. Directing was the farthest from her mind, as she was more inclined to teach acting.

But for the longest time, she had been incessantly told that she also held potential as a director.

“It was the question of what I can still do aside from acting, ano pa yung pwede ma-challenge ako. Ano pa bang pwede kong gawin. A few years ago everybody was telling me to direct. Noon, acting and teaching ako malapit because teaching comes from acting also. So I was thinking that teaching could be my second, my stem from being an actress but then everybody was telling me: ‘No. You can direct.’ So I said, sige try natin,” she recalls.

Since fiddling behind the camera and seeing the set with brand new eyes, Direk Gina also found out that she could channel her skill as an actress and as teacher in her work as a director.

“I can actually use my acting and teaching experiences when I’m directing. Actually, more of the teaching because I know how to deal with the actors, I know how to work around problems, how to motivate them because I used to be there,” Direk quips.

These days though, to save time, she prefers to have an acting coach coax her actors so she can focus on the technical aspects.

Although she admits she’s not the most visual in the directorial bunch, Direk Gina wants to believe that she is more effective of a director because she acts and teaches.

“I admit I’m not a visual director. Food for the eyes, cinematography—I’m not good at that. What I’m good at is the emotional level, making my actors move. I can vouch for that. Magaling ako mapagalaw ng artista ko. I’ve learned that through teaching,” she says, sharing that GMA-7 probably wanted her to direct “Extraordinary Love” because not only is it about mother-daughter relationships, it’s also a drama – a genre that Direk Gina considers her forte.

As someone who has an innate affinity for teaching, Direk Gina, mother to actors Ryan and Geoff Eigenmann with ex-husband Michael de Mesa, also gives input about her sons’ work.

“With my kids, whenever I see their work, I appreciate it naman when they do something good. And I tell them naman when I see something na parang ginagawa nila for the sake of earning money. My son,  Ryan wants me to critique him. He makes it a point na, ‘Ma, can you please watch this.’ And pagkatapos ko panoorin, he makes it a point to come to the house and ask if I’ve seen his work, and asks what I think about it.”

“Si Geoff, hindi masyado,” Direk Gina laughs of the “Contessa” actor. “Hindi naman niya masyado hinihingi yung opinion ko pero binibigay ko kahit hindi niya gusto.”

With a career spanning at least four decades, Direk Gina, who started as a child actress, has survived the fickle business of show. She has witnessed the trends, the drama, the action and the glamor unfold as she transcended from project after project.

Direk Gina can differentiate the artistas from the actors, has seen the dwindling amount of “starving artists” and “real actors”—who she so highly regards for their love and passion of the craft—because as the director puts it, nowadays people want to be compensated, and want to be compensated well.

With the sort of credentials evidenced by her talent and work ethic as a teacher herself, one might think that Direk Gina already knows everything. The actress debunks that idea, saying she still learns new things every single day.

“I learn everyday—lessons in life, especially relationships, dealing with people, motivations of people, understading people. Madami pang ganoon and everyday you try to do what is right kahit hindi yun ang usual na ginagawa ng iba,” Direk Gina begins.

“For example, trying not to get mad even when the situation calls for you to get mad. But since you know that getting mad won’t produce anything positive, you try not to go there. You don’t agitate the situation and you see the situation different. And that’s a bit difficult kasi sanay na sanay na ako na may reaction on certain things. Medyo mahirap kasi mas madali yung you snap back at people kesa sa yung patience mo ite-test pa,” she elaborates, and adds that she is far from the stereotypical director who bellows and yells and throws tantrums at people on set.

And that attitude shows, as she conducts her workshop with Cebuano students. Although firm with her ground rules, Direk Gina is a fluid teacher—laughing at the students’ antics, asking them about what they thought of their own performance, commending them when credit is due, telling them where and how they should improve, and noting how much they’ve changed from the first period to the present. Although unable to understand Bisaya, the instructor earnestly tries to feel with her students as they switch from using different dialects and languages throughout the exercises.

“Everyday yun. You learn something everyday,” Direk Gina says.

*The Gina Alajar Acting Workshop was made possible by CMB Film Services, Inc., Key Power International Institute, Deal Management and Promotions, Alen Soco Atelier, OZAR Models Philippines, Makeshift Studio, Santi Luchavez , Music in Motion, IGL, KG, Main Hotel and Suites, Castle Peak Hotel, Pioneer Your Insurance, Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly, CareHealthPlus, Global Carriers Phils., Inc., Bebong’s Cakes and Pastries, Alexander’s Lechon Baboy, MJ’s Catering Services, and Jerdel’s Internet Café.

GINA ALAJAR
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