Unexpectedly Yours

Unexpectedly Yours

Friday, March 29, 2013

Isang kumentaryo: Sa pagbabalik ng Gabby-Sharon loveteam (Zoom, 1983)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sweetheart Deal: Sha and Gabby Get Hitched (Wall Street Journal 1984)

Sweetheart Deal: Sha and Gabby Get Hitched
By Terry Trucco.
Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y]
25 Oct 1984: 1

Manila, the Philippines -- "It's as if Brooke Shields were to marry Michael Jackson," says one Manila resident trying to explain what all the fuss is about. But even that, the ultimate tabloid editor's dream come true, just might not match the brouhaha here concerning the recent marriage of one Sharon Cuneta, 18, and Gabriel Concepcion, 21.

Sha and Gabby, as they're affectionately known here, are two of the Philippine movie industry's hottest young stars -- "junior superstars," as a local wag describes them. For the past three years, they've been paired on the screen in a popular series of wholesome romances with happy endings and gooey titles: "P.S. I Love You," "Dear Heart" and "My Only Love." To the delight of both their fans and their film producers, they conducted a torrid off-screen romance as well, complete with a stormy breakup and a rosy reconciliation.

Sharon and Gabby also happen to be rich, a happy situation that merely gilds the valentine. Sharon is the daughter of Pablo Cuneta, the powerful mayor of Metromanila's Pasay City. Gabby, too, hails from a family of means. Gossip columnists like to call them Prince Charming and the Princess.

Not surprisingly, their wedding this month at Manila Cathedral was an extraordinary production even for a nation that idolizes its movie stars and revels in ostentation. It was big and showy, with hundreds of guests, including President Ferdinand Marcos and thousands of uninvited onlookers. Fans filled the adjoining church square, lining the streets and perching in trees. They stormed the bride's limousine when it arrived. Those who stayed home could see it all on television, including the moment the pair murmured their marriage vows into hand-held microphones.

The hubbub has hardly abated. Manila's most popular movie is currently "The Best of Sharon and Gabby," a hastily assembled pastiche of wedding footage and vintage Cuneta-Concepcion clips. The day it opened, it is said to have taken in 1.2 million pesos (about $65,000) in Metro Manila alone. Opening-night audiences, nearly 90% women, were predictably demonstrative. When Sharon and Gabby kissed on screen, there were cheers and applause.

None of this fazes anyone familiar with the Philippine film industry. Sharon and Gabby may not be the nation's best or brightest, but their so-called storybook romance and wedding provided filmgoers here with what they want most -- escape. "These days most people want to forget," says Edmund Ty, a Manila production designer who has worked on a number of popular films. "For seven pesos {about 40 cents} you can stay in the theater all day. It's air-conditioned. You can watch the movie or go to sleep."
While the nation's economy has dampened dozens of industries, the movie business is doing fine. Though the proliferation of videotape recorders has trimmed audiences slightly, Philippine movie theaters still draw an average of one million viewers a day. Last year's estimated box-office gross handily topped one billion pesos (about $54.5 million) and this year should be even better, according to figures compiled by Worldwide Distributors of Manila.

Locally made productions are expected to reach 200 this year, up from 130 in 1983, due in part to the devaluation of the peso but also to an increased interest in homegrown films. As times get tougher, Philippine audiences are showing a preference for Tagalog-language films that show familiar actors in local settings. Feelings of nationalism have contributed subtly too.
The rub is that these legions of moviegoers have rather limited tastes. Serious dramas and movies dealing with social problems are uniformly spurned. Award-winning directors such as Lino Brocka still have trouble getting their movies distributed.

Some here see dangers in the boom in escapist entertainment, which extends to TV soap operas and comic books as well. Those who flock to the movies tend to be young people from the lowest economic sectors. The problem some see is that these audiences get too involved in fantasy films, growing lethargic and out of touch with the real world. "You work for a day to see a movie, then work another day to see another movie," says one Manila film executive. "For too many Filipinos the escape movies are an opium."
The Sharon and Gabby films are perfectly tailored to feed these fantasies. Like American movies from the Depression, their films are unrelentingly upbeat, mildly preachy and, first and foremost, focused on the rich. Sharon and Gabby could be playing themselves. They meet on the golf course, dine in fancy restaurants, get chauffeured here and there. "Take the plane, it's faster," says Gabby's screen father when his son wants to see Sharon. So Gabby hops into the family jet. It's a world devoid of poor people, jeepneys, street vendors, flooded gutters and everything else you see without looking too hard in Manila.

Far from resenting Sharon and Gabby for being so rich, most moviegoers want to see all that wealth. It's part of the fantasy. They know Sharon travels with four bodyguards and is a millionaire. But they can also see that, while she's cute and cuddly, she's no great beauty. "Pert and toothsome" is the popular gossip-column description. She also has a weight problem. And she's no intellectual powerhouse either. Asked by an interviewer what she was looking for in a husband, she replied, "Someone who is presentable." And what does she admire most about Gabby? "He's a perfect gentleman who couldn't hurt a fly."

Says Mr. Ty: "If you're a maid, you can look at her and think, 'I'm more beautiful and I can also sing well. So maybe I can do what she's done.'"

Gabby, meanwhile, is handsome in a way female moviegoers like. He's cute, but he's no Tom Selleck. "He's Mr. Nice Guy and he's rich, just what women want in a husband," says Mr. Ty.

Sharon and Gabby also have light skin, still something of a pre-requisite for the nation's romantic leads. Other actors in the Sharon and Gabby films also have markedly European features.

Fans will most likely demand that Sharon and Gabby stay just the way they are. Sharon's admirers probably would desert the theater if she started portraying slum girls. And now that she's married to Gabby, it's going to be increasingly difficult to pair her romantically with other actors. Gabby will have the same problem. In their next film, already in the works, they portray a young married couple starting a family.

Indeed, once again the movies could be imitating life. Sharon is said to be three-months pregnant already. It's all proper, the couple's publicists intone, insisting that the pair actually got married a couple of months back in a civil ceremony.

Baby or no baby, the marriage will probably be enough to snip both careers. A marriage for Sharon and Gabby was what movie fans wanted most, but they tend to have a less passionate interest in the part that says they "lived together ever after," particularly if it's not happily. The wedding is probably the last big show for Sharon and Gabby.

Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc Oct 25, 1984

(Picture not originally included in the article.)

Star Studio Special Collector's Issue: Sharon Cuneta (5/5)


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