Published in Metro Magazine, December 2009 – January 2010
Legs slightly apart, she leans towards him. His hand is on her waist, his face serious yet expectant. Her fingers tentatively brush the edges of his jacket. Their faces are less than an inch apart, and they feel each other’s breath.
A scene from a movie? Not quite. Although Kim Chui and Gerald Anderson are working on a new one, this is just a regular photo shoot, on a regular day. Their body movements and expressions are dictated by a photographer, their outfits carefully constructed by a stylist. In a few seconds the risqué pose is broken by teasing side comments from the crew and their bodies relax, laughter and an easy camaraderie replacing the sensual air of the shoot. Witnessing this split-second transformation, as well as their overall shift from teenybopper love team to a more sophisticated and mature pairing was quite interesting. This ‘growing up’ began with their love scene in Tayong Dalawa, and is now established by this very grown up photo shoot for Metro.
The shoot focused on a sexy theme, but it was more about mood than skin. “It’s about texture,” said Pam Quinones, the stylist for the shoot. “For example, lace and leather are sexy. We did some strategic showing off – a bra strap here, that kind of thing. It’s not outright sexy, but more edgy. Most of the pegs that we looked at were European; a lot of Kate Moss and Johnny Depp in the 90s, that sort of thing.”
On styling Kim and Gerald, she shared, “there’s really no problem with dressing up Kim. She has a model kind of body. The challenge was to show more curves. That being said, we prepared really body fitting outfits, short dresses, revealing tops, stuff like that. For Gerald, he also has a perfect body so it was all about projecting a sexy attitude.” Mark Nicdao, the photographer, made sure that proper lighting was used and the atmosphere was captured. “I talked to Pam and found out that the look would be textured, so I went for the sunlit effect so all the details are going to be there.”
“We didn’t want it to seem too mature.” Pam explained. “We wanted it to be appropriate for their age. They’re young, sexy and fresh.” That pretty much sums up the direction that this much-adored love team is going towards, as they conclude a chapter of their careers with the end of Tayong Dalawa, and start a new one with their upcoming movie next year.
Kim admits being a bit nervous at showing so much skin during the shoot. “Nangangapa pa ako at first, pero ok naman. It wasn’t easy. Pinakita ko nay un legs at cleavage ko. First time to sa photo shoot!” She admits. Despite this, the photographer had much confidence in Kim during the shoot. “She knows how to project and she’s really used to this already.” Mark said. He has photographed her in other shoots, mostly for product endorsements. He comments that this shoot is quite different. “This is another step for her career, and we’re trying to project another image of her – a more grown-up image. She’s very model-esque, that’s why it’s easy to shoot her. She knows how to move and I don’t have to tell her what to do. I also think she’s very fashionable not just in shoots, but in normal life. She looks stylish and put together.” That’s quite true, as she arrived at the studio dressed casually, in jeans and a tunic-like top, yet looked very chic and composed.
Gerald is no stranger to photo shoots that involve a bit of shedding. “Medyo sanay na ako sa maraming skin. May konting hiya pa rin but overall, it’s ok. Masaya naman.” He commented. Mark has worked with him in the past as well. “I’m just going to show him what to do, but the expressions will be coming from him.” Mark said. “He’s a good actor. Whatever instructions I would say in previous shoots, he immediately delivers. He’s probably one of the best young actors in the country now.”
The Nice Boy
Gerald has a friendly and communicative face. His expression shifts from relaxed to thoughtful to serious in seconds. He speaks English fluently, with just a hint of an accent – a slurred vowel here, an emphasized syllable there – it’s indicative of those who have spent a few formative years in the US. But he also switches to a comfortable Taglish frequently. There’s an unassuming intelligence behind his amused eyes and laid back attitude. He’s the type of guy any mother would love for her daughter to date – a good looking, respectful Catholic boy. And it’s not just some showbiz front that he projects. In the midst of Typhoon Ondoy, Gerald was one of those who tried to help out his neighbors during the floods without seeking media coverage for his do-gooding, unlike some other hot (tempered) young actors.
He also isn’t a stranger to disasters and dangerous situations. “I’ve been through an earthquake and a volcano eruption when I was living with my mom in Gen San.” He reveals. “I was about 14. Syempre nakakagulat din yun. Things like that you can’t control. It happens.” On the recent typhoons and flooding, he goes, “With everything I saw, I’m now more aware of climate change. I’m trying to push for awareness of climate change because it’s a big factor regarding what’s going to happen to us in the future.”
We talk about his background, and the transition from Mindanao to Luzon, from province to big city. “Moving to a big city is very different. Gen San is a small city. Manila is so overpopulated. Nakakabigla, and may konting adjustment. People here are different, kase at 10 or 11 pm tulog na ang mga tao sa probinsya. Here, parang after 24 hours di pa rin natutulog.” Most young people who make that leap go wild, but Gerald seems to be pretty grounded. It’s probably because of where he grew up, and his experiences there. When asked how growing up in General Santos City made him different from boys his age who grew up in Metro Manila, he explains that, “Gen San is very exposed to terrorism and violence. One time I was at a mall and there was a bomb. Buti na lang they found the bomb and took it outside where it exploded. Pero naramdaman pa rin namin ng mom ko. After feeling that, after seeing that, you feel like doing something to fight against that. Even before that there were so many bombing incidents. Here in Manila you don’t get that much terrorism. Kawawa din yun mga nasa provinces because it’s also uncontrollable for them. It’s really hard.”
He reflected that, “the youth should be more cautious about the things they do. It’s good to inspire the youth to do better, and be more aware of what’s happening around us.” Hearing this come from someone who has braved floods, grown up with terrorism as a reality and is currently a Red Cross ambassador convinces me that Gerald can walk his talk.
The Chinita Girl
When Kim entered the studio, people greeted her in a courteous, efficient manner. She smiled, and sat still as they fixed her hair, put on her make-up and chose her clothes. When she says hello you wonder if she actually sees you. Her pretty face is distracted, thoughts preoccupied with things only extremely busy, constantly scrutinized 19 year old breadwinners know. Still, she’s polite and manages to laugh and smile a bit while being interviewed.
During the interview we talked about the recent storms that have hit the country. Kim showed empathy for those devastated by the floods. “Yun mawalan ng bahay, na-feel ko din yun eh. Pinalayas kami sa bahay namin dati, when I was in grade 4, due to financial problems.” Kim is stable and successful now, but her early life was not as charmed. Aside from being evicted from her house, her parents separated when she was young and Kim was not able to finish high school. “Dumating sa point na lola ko na yun nagaalaga at nagpapaaral sa amin.” She reveals. “But all those problems made me a stronger person. Ngayon independent ako, di na ako na umaasa sa lola ko. Napapaaral ko na yun mga kapatid ko. Sabi ko nga sa kanila na batang mommy na nila ako.” She smiles. Kim has four siblings, three of which are younger than her. The youngest is in Grade 4, and they all stay with her lola back in Cebu. “Ayaw kase magpaiwan ng lola ko so doon muna lahat sila. Ako lang yun nasa house.”
In Cebu, Kim was an average teenager who went to school from Monday to Friday, worked as a cashier in her aunt’s store on Saturdays and studied at home on Sundays. Now, half the country has seen her blossom from a cute, 16 year old to a trendy young lady whose face can be found on TV screens, print ads and movie theatres. “Naging life-changing para sa akin ang pagiging artista.” Kim admitted. “Nagkapera kami, nabibigay ko yun gusto ng family ko at naging kontento ako with life in showbiz.”
Her family visits her every now and then, but it must get lonely once in a while for Kim. When I ask questions she looks at me with eyes made too wide by eyeliner and false lashes. When she answers she tends to glance away at times, in shyness or hesitancy. Despite the remarkable metamorphosis into a cool, long-legged vixen for the photo shoot, Kim seems too thin and frail in real life. But it’s this air of tired vulnerability, this softness and uncertainty that makes her sexy. No wonder Gerald is sweet on her. By the end of our interview, I felt like giving Kim a pat on the head and stuffing her with donuts.
There’s always the question of whether or not these two will get together in real life. The whole love team business blurs reality and fantasy, and there was some joking during the shoot. “Kim Anderson!” One of the staff shouted as they were shooting. There were some laughs, but they seemed used to such. “I’m very comfortable with her.” Gerald admitted. “The feelings are there. Pagkatapos ng shows and tapings namin, after every show we do, my feelings get stronger. After all, kasama ko sya everyday for the past 4 years.” Kim, on the other hand, gave the standard line: “Friends lang kami kaya ok lang.” She went on to explain, “naging routine na sa amin na pag may camera, ‘uy, love team tayo’, pag wala ‘uy, normal na tayo’. Nasanay na kami and naging close na kami sa isa’t-isa so hindi mahirap umarte sa TV.”
I went to the studio assuming I’d interview them both at the same time. Perhaps be able to observe the way they related to each other, read their body language, interpret subconscious gestures and the like. But I ended up talking to the “Kimerald” duo separately, which actually proved to be a refreshing experience after constantly seeing them together on TV and in photos. Whatever the state of their friendship and love team (on or off screen), it’s good to remember that Kim and Gerald are two separate people, both hard-working, determined and talented, and capable of more than just producing “kilig” moments at the drop of a hat. And as they leave behind their teenage years, their relationship will inevitably undergo a revolution of sorts as well.
Transformations and Reinvention
Speaking of teenage years, how did it feel like, knowing the whole world was watching them grow up: braces coming off, womanly parts filling out, voice changing, facial hair appearing. These changes can be difficult for any teen, what more for Kim and Gerald who were 16 and 17 (respectively) when they went into the Pinoy Big Brother house? Both seem to take it in stride. “Ayos lang.” Gerald said. In a way, since they (the fans) see me growing up, mas nakaka-relate sila sa akin. Kilala nila ako. It’s normal. Kahit artista ka o hinde, magbabago ka physically habang tumatanda ka.” Kim recalled the first time she arrived in Manila, “di talaga ako marunong magsalita ng tagalog. Syempre bisaya ako! Sa PBB house medyo balu-baluktot pa yun mga sinasabi ko.” It’s been three years since their stay at the Big Brother house, and after that they worked on a number of movies and series together, the most recent of which was Tayong Dalawa.
Taking on any role, especially long roles such as in a TV show, can change a person. Kim said, “Yun mga ibang traits ng character, nai-imbibe mo na. Parang di mo na maalis sa sarili mo. For example, sa My Girl, outspoken at masiyahin yun character. Dun ko nalabas yun sarili ko so nadala ko yun traits nya. Now, lagi kong nalalabas yun sarili ko pag nasa harap ng camera. Sa Tayong Dalawa medyo emotional yun character so nagiging emotional na rin ako sa mga interviews, at pag may malungkot, nalulungkot na ako kaagad. Yun mga iba kong katrabaho like si Jake, na-imbibe nya rin yun character nya. Kase parang dati ang angas-angas nya eh, pero ngayon hindi na (laughs). Ganun yata talaga.”
Gerald added, “Marami kang makukuha sa role, especially since we were taping for almost a year. Dala-dala ko na yun eh. JR (his character) really loves his family, and can sacrifice himself for his loved ones. He would do anything for them. I played that guy for 10 months and until now it’s still with me at dahil dun, mas napamahal ako sa pamilya ko.” But what about if you had to play a character with a lot of negativity, say a villain or a troubled young man? Do you also absorb their traits? I asked. “Talagang nangyayari din yun minsan, di maiiwasan.” He admitted. “Look at Heath Ledger. After taping you try your best to stay with the people you love para maalala mo ulit kung sino ka talaga, kung ano yun mga qualities mo and hindi ka ma-corrupt. I think that would be the best way, for me. To be with family and friends.”
Gerald is the type who embraces a role whole-heartedly.“I like to re-invent myself per project. You have to be focused. Learn, learn, learn, absorb, absorb absorb.” He emphasized. “Especially from your co-actors, the director, and from people who teach you. Tanggapin mo. Kunin mo lahat yun. Then in the future, gamitin mo.” The same goes for Kim. “Mahal na mahal ko ang trabaho ko and sobrang dedicated ako.” She declared. Depending on the call time, her day usually starts at 7 am and often, she gets home the next day.
Kim is willing to take on difficult roles in the future, even ones where she would play someone disfigured or with a handicap – something completely different from her pretty, fresh-faced roles. “Challenge din naman yun sa akin, tsaka gusto ko yun iba-iba.” She’s even interested in playing quirky roles, such as a mermaid, or a group of triplets. “Wag lang yun masyadong daring,” she adds, careful to not take this ‘sexy’ transformation to the extreme. Kim is still a vanilla nice girl, despite the newly added cinnamon spice to her image.
The end – and the beginning
The conclusion of Tayong Dalawa, one of the most talked about and well-received teleserye in recent years, marks the end of another era in the careers of these young thespians, and has opened up numerous possibilities and directions for them. After all, the series boasted an exceptional cast and has been credited with increasing the PMA’s recruitment ranks by 300%. Kim, Gerald and Jake have been given plaques of appreciation by the AFP. With that kind of recognition and influence at such a young age, their stars keep getting brighter and stronger.
In Hollywood, stars are stripped down to pieces, the minutiae of their lives examined under a microscope of admiration and judgment. In Bollywood, showbiz personalities are treated like demi-gods and near worshipped, their lives always dramatic, colorful and larger than life. What about in the Philippines? Here, we sometimes go from one end to the other, but always the humanity of our stars isn’t forgotten. Heartthrobs like Gerald brave a state of calamity to check on their neighbors, and ingénues like Kim are teenage breadwinners. I suppose in this sense Kim and Gerald are more like planets than stars; two bodies in constant motion, rounded by their own gravity.