Philippines’ Primera Kontrabida, Cherie Gil guested at MINT College’s CineFiesta 2017 on November 22. The multi-awarded television, film, and theater actress shared stories about her life and career with veteran actor and MINT College’s Theater Arts program head, Bernardo Bernardo.
The program was a light conversation between two colleagues, with Bernardo asking who Cherie Gil is in her own terms. “Hi, I’m Cherie. I’m an actress, a lover, mother, friend, daughter, sister,” she answered.
Of course, an interview with Cherie would not be complete without acknowledging her consistent role as antagonist in film and television. “I found a niche for me,” she said. Bernardo also explains Cherie’s strong will and personality to the audience, “Walang hiya-hiya when it comes to things. She says what’s on her mind and what she feels since I knew her when she was 18, up to now... Hindi siya nagbabago. The most beautiful part about Cherie—she’s consistent. She’s constant. She’s getting more mature, and more intelligent… Once she believes it, she believes it. She’s going to fight for it.”
The audience, composed of Film and Theater students, delivered Cherie’s iconic line, “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard, copycat!” much to her surprise. “I doubt that you were even born yet!” said the veteran actress. The line comes from her most memorable role as Lavinia Arguelles in the 1985 film, Bituing Walang Ningning, where she starred alongside Sharon Cuneta. The line, which was delivered with a fierce splash of wine across Cuneta’s face, made the film an instant classic.
Bernardo took Cherie on a trip down memory lane, discussing her early days as an actress, showing images of her earlier films, and first leading men. Interestingly, Cherie shared that it was not in her plans to go into showbusiness, “I guess things just led me to it, because it came from my mother and my father,” referring to the late Rosemarie Gil and Eddie Mesa, who were both actors. “I loved performing in school. I was always part of the drama club, or the glee club. But, I really wanted to take up Psychology. I figured if I take up Psychology, then family members can have check-ups free,” she jokingly continued.
"... trusted on my talent, rather than my looks or my body, or the trend of bold in the 80’s. He taught me acting."
- Cherie Gil on Ishmael Bernal
The conversation also revolved around the host and Cherie’s shared love for Ishmael Bernal. Cherie shared how Bernal helped to shape her acting, “I think because he always made me feel that he believed in us. He made me feel nurtured. He made me feel like he could take me on a different ride that trusted on my talent, rather than my looks or my body, or the trend of bold in the 80’s. He taught me acting.” Both Bernardo and Cherie acted in Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night, which led to Bernardo’s Best Actor win from the Gawad Urian Awards.
The actors also shared their experience of going to the Berlin International Film Festival in 2016, where Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis received the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize. The 485-minute film featured Bernardo and Cherie, alongside Angel Aquino, as the Filipino mythical creature, tikbalang.
During the interview, Bernardo also discussed about the “Eigenmann Tribe,” calling Cherie’s family as the Barrymore’s of the Philippines. Cherie’s siblings are Mark Gil and Michael De Mesa, both actors who also have children who are working actors in the Philippines.
The next half of the interview was dedicated to Cherie’s life in theater. She shared that her first play was actually with Bernardo, “My very first part in the theater was with Bernardo Bernardo, so we come a long way! I did Barefoot in the Park as Corey Pratter,” Bernardo joined in on the recollection, and shared that Cherie was her leading lady in said play.
Cherie has starred as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Masterclass, and took on the one-woman show, Fullgallop as Diana Vreeland.
“When I am onstage,
I am most happy."
- Cherie on her love for Theater
Asked about her favorite format, Cherie answered, “When I am onstage, I am most happy. It demands more discipline from me. It demands more sanity, and it demands more challenge inside me that makes me feel growth. The process of learning a part, and the research also educates me in terms of things I haven’t been able to learn in school.
“This is, again, the challenge to in being a woman. When you don’t find the right roles in cinema or teleseryes, at my age for that matter… [At this point you’ll be casted as the] best friend… As a young girl, you may be the girl next door, unless you’re an endorsable woman for posters, you get such roles. And you’ll only find certain formulaic spots—the bad girl, or the good girl. Or, a mother! That’s about it. So, it’s in the theater that I find roles for myself. And it makes me feel alive,” she added. Cherie also starred in Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard in 2015.
In the Q & A portion, Cherie advised the students to attend workshops, and create their own networks, adding that, “In our time, we didn’t have such networks. So, you can see that now, you can attend camps—the network where you can have your support team and create your own film. You can make your own industry as it is, so, you really don’t need to, so to speak, ‘enter’ the industry.”
Towards the end of the program, the students requested Cherie to deliver her most iconic line, “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard, copycat!” Much to the audience’s surprise, the multi-awarded actress obliged, and even allowed a daring MINT student to act out the scene with her. Watch the moment below: