No Comments 08 November 2011

By Pepper Marcelo

People call them “cougar” – women over 40 that remain desirable and sexy even in middle age. Former President Joseph Estrada puts it more colorfully in street lingo: May asim pa. With exercise, diet, and the wonders of cosmetic surgery (read: botox, liposuction, boob job, noselift, facelift), women are now are able to mature with style, elegance and oomph. (Author’s note: This is not to imply that all the women featured in this piece have resorted to the cosmetic procedures.) The marvelous makeover must be well worth every peso (lots of ‘em to be sure), the physical ache and medical risk. Suddenly the gallivanting husband comes home early and takes a renewed interest in the wife. And for the separadas, hooking up with younger men now isn’t as difficult and distasteful as it used to be.

In the following piece Planet Philippines goes cougar-hunting in the glittery world of showbiz in search of celebrities who live by the mantra “50 is the new 40.” To avoid a catfight, we have listed in alphabetical order our top ten female cougars.

Gretchen Barretto – “La Greta,” as she’s known for her diva status and sassy attitude, is undisputedly one of the most beautiful faces in local showbiz. For three decades she has been a fixture on film and television, the ramp, and, much to her chagrin (says she), the gossip pages. A fashion icon and a certified bon vivant, courtesy of long-time partner, tycoon Tonyboy Cojuangco, she has graced the cover of every glossy magazine in town. Whether in a luxuriant Inno Sotto gown or in faded denim pants, La Greta is the embodiment of style and class.

Dina Bonnevie – Now a grandmother (!) at 50, the former Regal Baby still makes heads turns with her sultry persona and voluptuous figure. Introduced in 1980 in the film Underage, she cemented her nymphet image in her breakout movie Katorse, also in 1980. She has had two failed marriages – first to Vic Sotto, with whom she has two children, and later to a businessman, which lasted only a few years. Miss D was 39 and a mother of two teenagers when she agreed to strip for the cover of the December 2001 issue of the men’s magazine FHM. Of her numerous male admirers, she says, “Even naman before, they’ve always been there. That’s why I always say, ‘Where the boys are, someone waits for me.’”

Pops Fernandez – The erstwhile Concert Queen is deceptively quiet about her love life after her failed marriage to singer Martin Nievera, who bore her two sons, and brief romance with actor Jomari Yllana. Turning 45 in December, she says she’d rather have another child than a new husband. In 2006 she caused a stir when she appeared on the cover of FHM. Asked why she did it, she replied, “I wanted to do so something I’ve never done before, and agree to do it before I cannot do it anymore. It’s something I can do now so I might as well do it now.”

Jean Garcia – Housewives may hate her for her kontrabida roles in teleseryes but the men are in awe of her alluring and scintillating beauty. Behind the virginal smile and delicate demeanor is sex appeal personified. Obliging the macho crowd, she consented to bare skin on the cover of FHM (October 2008 issue), the first and only time that she allowed the adoring macho horde to have a peek at her physical assets. But the 42-year-old temptress says her proudest achievement is her two children – aspiring actress Jennica (with estranged husband, actor Jigo Garcia) and Kotaro (with a Japanese businessman). Happily single for three years now, her last publicly known boyfriend was actor Polo Ravales, who is 13 years her junior.

Cherie Gil – There is no more apt description for this alluring, versatile actress than the moniker “Sexy Kontrabida.” Sexy and mean, the 48-year-old mother of three is known for uttering the famous movie line, “You are nothing but a second-rate, trying hard copy cat!” Confidence, sophistication and class are what make a woman sexy, she says. And when does she feel most sexy? “When I am perfectly groomed and wearing my sexiest underwear, yet no one can see. Oh, and when I am wearing great four-inch heels.” In June 2008, she and her husband of 20 years, Israeli violinist Roni Rogoff, parted ways.

Zsa Zsa Padilla – Years ago her partner, Dolphy, used to say she was his natural Viagra. Going by the Comedy King’s reputation as a connoisseur of women, the accolade speaks volume about Zsa Zsa’s animal appeal and magnetic personality. Asked what’s the sexiest item in her closet, she teased, “Uh, probably a lace camisole that I don’t wear underwear with, hahaha. You get the picture.” The 47-year-old mother of three isn’t ashamed to admit that “a little part” of her body is no longer original (though she would not say which). She is one of our most seductive chanteuses in the mold of Carmen Soriano in the ‘60s and Didith Reyes in the ‘70s.

Lorna Tolentino – Even at 49, the acclaimed actress remains luminous and beguiling. Beginning as a child actress in 1969, LT metamorphosed into a lovely and scintillating beauty, which landed her in “bold” flicks in the ‘70s. After she married action star Rudy Fernandez in 1983 and later bore him two sons, LT shed her sex siren image and built a solid reputation as a top-caliber dramatic actress. Even with her husband’s approval, she declined an offer to appear on FHM, “kasi pinagdaanan ko na ang pa-sexy-sexy.” Still reeling from Rudy’s death in 2008, she can’t say if she’ll fall in love again.

Eula Valdez – Like fellow cougar Jean Garcia, Eula is an alumna of FMA, a popular character actress, separated with two children, and involved with a man 13 years her junior. It was in 2008 that she hooked up with ramp model Rocky Salumbides. Their May-December affair set tongues wagging but the couple has managed to survive the nasty whispers and mischievous stares. The 43-year old enchantress, says FHM, has an appeal that can put many women half her age to shame. “Her doe-shaped eyes and the interesting curve of her mouth emanate the mysterious allure of a woman who has been there and done that.”

Regine Velasquez – Asia’s Songbird is known not only for her powerful voice but also for her alluring charm and magnetic beauty. She has not posed for any men’s magazine or appeared in a sexy role but audiences are well aware of her physical assets (thanks to those plunging necklines and body-hugging outfits). Just ask the fans who voted her No. 7 in FHM’s Sexiest Women for 2010. Surprisingly for a single and attractive celebrity, she had only one boyfriend – singer Ariel Rivera – before her husband, Oge Alcasid. At 41, she is set to deliver her first ever baby in November. One hopes that motherhood would not turn the cougar into a lioness.

Dawn Zulueta – This 42-year-old doe-eyed mestiza is demure by showbiz standards when it comes to flaunting her physical assets. Ex-boyfriend Richard Gomez, who knows a thing or two about women, can attest to her stunning beauty and sex appeal. Entertainment columnist Ricky Lo writes: “She can look expensive without even trying to. Even if unadorned with expensive jewelry and accessories, she manages to look classy.” When not in front of the camera – which has become less frequent after her marriage to businessman-politician Anton Lagdameo – Dawn dotes on her two children, five-year-old Jacobo and two-year-old Ayisha.




No Comments 05 November 2011

The Bicol Express is back. After years of absence, the legendary railway line is once again operating the Tutuban-Naga route, its refurbished train cars speeding their way through the tracks every night since a quiet re-relaunch September this year. READ FULL STORY




No Comments 04 November 2011

By Pepper Marcelo

Hundreds of years before tattoos and body artwork became acceptable and mainstream in the country, Filipinos were already adorning themselves with ink. When the Spanish arrived and subsequently colonized the Philippines, they documented and referred to the islands and its inhabitants as La Isla De Los Pintados, or “Island of the Painted Ones.”

Throughout the archipelago, various tribes and communities used tattoos to signify rank, age, accomplishment; some were even viewed as symbols of magic. Also regarded as a sign of beauty, women adorned themselves with tattoos, oftentimes marking them themselves. Inking methods during this early period were crude, consisting of smearing the skin with a mixture of soot and sugar cane juice.

In modern times, tattoos have entered popular culture. Celebrities, entertainers, athletes, ordinary folks and yes, the jailbirds – they all proudly sport tattoos. Planet Philippines recently sat down with two of the country’s leading tattoo artists – Ricky Sta. Ana of Skinworkz and Joe Saliendra of Tattoo at Joe’s – to discuss the local tattoo industry, its growing acceptance by mainstream society, and how Filipino artists compare with the rest of the world.

Ricky Sta. Ana

Ricky Sta. Ana is one of the more popular tattoo artists in the country. He has been prominently featured in magazines and newspapers, television programs and advertisements. He is the current head of the Philippine Tattoo Artist Guild (PHILTAG).

With no formal training, he opened his first tattoo parlor in 1990 at Cartimar Arcade in Pasay City, which has now sprouted to three in the Metro Manila area, with a staff of 10 artists. When he first started, he recalls, his clientele was mostly criminals and gangsters. “It was the mark of a bad boy or a rebel,” he says.

Nowadays, he caters to actors, rock stars, sports celebrities and even politicians. “They bring their girlfriends, or mistresses, and give them a tattoo as a gift.”

Skinworkz’s prices range from the minor (Php1,000) to premium (Php10,000 and above). Popular and traditional tattoos for most locals, he says, include flowers, stars and Filipino tribal art.

Sta. Ana says that he originally accepted walk-ins to his shop, but with business booming, he now chooses clients whose designs have the most meaning to them. While able to draw almost any style, he prefers to execute Oriental (harkening to his half-Chinese background), as well as elemental designs.

He explains that it’s more expensive to have an arm tattoo than a back tattoo, despite the size difference. “It’s more difficult with an arm, because you’re working on a round surface. You have to be sure it’s symmetrical. At least with a back you’re working on a flat surface.”

Sta. Ana advises first timers to start with something small and simple. “Try it first, then think and educate yourself about it. Later, you can get something more deep.”

Joe Saliendra

Another industry veteran, Joe Saliendra has been a tattoo artist for 27 years and one of the original founders of PHILTAG. It was only five years ago, however, that he opened his shop in BF Homes in Paranaque City. Also a self-taught tattoo artist, he originally worked as an animator, but gave that up when tattooing became more lucrative.

Many of his colleagues, including Sta. Ana, view Saliendra as a mentor figure and pioneer in the industry. But Saliendra shrugs the accolade off, saying that in the “underground” realm of tattoos, there’s no merit for labels or titles. “It’s not like a person studying to be a doctor,” he says. “There’s isn’t a degree you can get. To be a professional is self-proclaimed. Me, I’m just a tattoo artist.”

Over the years, he’s catered to all types of clients – men, women, celebrities, white-collar workers, tricycle and jeepney drivers. Even underage kids approach him, accompanied by their parents. “I once asked the mother if it was okay for her 17-year-old son to get a tattoo,” he recalls. “She told me, ‘It’s okay, so, what can I do?’ So I said okay.”

Saliendra’s tattoo methods are different than those of other shops. After a client sets an appointment with him, they go through an extensive orientation and interview process. Like Sta. Ana, he asks clients why they want a tattoo. “It has to be personal, justified and meaningful to them,” he says.

Unlike most artists, Saliendra doesn’t specialize in a specific image or design, because all types of people approach him. “I have to know what you like, then I’ll go with the flow. The influence of the tattoo doesn’t come from me, but from the person getting the tattoo. He or she will educate and motivate me.”

The process, depending on the size and design, can take anywhere from one hour to a simple tattoo (such as a butterfly) to a month, with the prices ranging from Php1,500 to more than a Php100,000. Saliendra says that the most expensive tattoo he has worked on was a back-placed Oriental design, which cost Php120,000.

Most people, he says, want to emulate designs and placements they see on celebrities, such as the angel with wings design on popular British soccer player David Beckham. He refuses such requests. “Resemblance is okay,” Saliendra says, “but I don’t want to do a carbon copy.”

Another common design for many locals are patriotic themes, such as the sun, rays and stars evoking the Philippine flag. “I’m sick of those,” he says.

Mainstream acceptance

Tattoos now are more popular and widely accepted, or at least tolerated, as they’ve ever been. “There’s more education, because of the internet, and the exposure in the media,” says Saliendra. “Before, it was like you were trapped in a small corner. Now, it’s spread everywhere.”

Despite the openness, he says there’s still some prejudice. “There’s the mentality that if you have a tattoo, you’re a bad guy.” He adds that it’s always the people without tattoos that pick on the people with, but never the other way around. “People ask, why do you have a tattoo? What’s wrong with you?’ But a tattooed person would never ask, ‘Why don’t you have a tattoo?’”

Sta. Ana agrees that there’s still some resistance to tattoos, but it’s natural. “Even in Europe and the US, they still have that problem,” he says. “It’s better to just educate people.”

Saliendra says that while the increasing commercialization of tattoos and proliferation of tattoo shops and artists, as well as events like Dutdutan, the biggest annual tattoo expo in the country, are positive for the industry, there’s a danger in over-commercialization. With so many shops, customers try to get the best price and make tattoo artists compete with another to bring the cost down. “There’s no standard set of prices,” he says. “Are you looking for artwork, or are you into getting the best deal?”

For his part, Sta. Ana is more concerned with advocating proper protocol and safety standards. “You see so many shops, they have modern equipment, but then they dispose needles improperly,” he says. “If a client gets infected, the whole industry will be affected.” PHILTAG, with approximately 152 registered members, conducts seminars on proper tattoo techniques and health safety procedures.

World-class talent

Being Pinoy, in both skill and culture, is what differentiates local artists, and is what ultimately makes them unique. “Job-wise, the Filipino at times is better,” says Saliendra. “We use the same equipment, pigments and all that. The people abroad charge more, and you can get that tattoo for cheaper here, and more personalized.”

Sta. Ana agrees, and wants to focus on helping burgeoning artists, especially wayward and out-of-school teens. “Their tattoo art is their only hope for a better life for them and their family,” he says. “Better to do this, than something negative.”

In his view, having a tattoo can be a form of catharsis and expression, or a chance to break free of the drudgery of life. “When you get home from work and take off your uniform, showing your tattoos, it’s the only time you can express another side of who you really are.”

Saliendra puts it more philosophically: “This is the ultimate soul of art, because this is the only art that divides the person’s soul from the reality. It is on this thin layer of skin – inside is your soul, outside is the reality. The art is the dividing wall, a reflection of your soul.”




No Comments 01 November 2011

Boxer, Godfather, saint, politician … Is there anything in the world that Manny can’t do? READ FULL STORY in Newsweek magazine’s cover story of November 7, 2011, Philippine and Latin American editions.


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