For Coco Martin, the gala premiere of “Sta. Nina” at the CCP Main Theater last Tuesday was a sort of homecoming.
Although he is widely known these days as the star of the hit primetime soap “Walang Hanggan”, the actor first made his name in independent films directed by Brillante Mendoza, such as “Tirador”, “Masahista”, and “Foster Child”.
Before he found success as a television star, Coco turned a lot of heads in the 2008 Cinemalaya entry “Jay”, for which he won an Urian award for best supporting actor.
This year, this Cinemalaya stint as the lead star of “Sta. Nina” is a return to familiar ground. But then the pandemonium that broke out when he arrived at the CCP Main Theater lobby for the film’s gala screening was a clear sign that things have changed in a big way for Coco.
Such a ruckus would have been unthinkable four or five years ago when he was known chiefly as an indie actor.
“Masaya ang pakiramdam. Festival na festival ang dating. Iba ‘yung atmosphere. Nakaka-matinee idol ba? Kaya nga sa kanila ako talagang magpapasalamat. Dahil sa suporta nila-mapa-TV, mapa-indie. Nakakanginig. Nakakatuwa kasi alam mong maraming excited para sa pelikula,” he said.
“Kaya nung makita ko the first time ‘yung pelikula namin, sabi ko sulit ang pagod. Nakakabilib ang mga ka-trabaho ko, lalo na my director. Masarap pala ‘yung pakiramdam ng ganito. Hindi ‘ata ako masasanay. Pero masarap sa tenga. Masarap sa pakiramdam.”
Coco said he missed the Cinemalaya fever, and wondered why the offers from indie filmmakers stopped coming.
“Almost three years din ang hinintay ko para makasama uli sa Cinemalaya. Masaya kasi rito, eh. Pakiramdam ko nga nung una, parang hindi na ako pinapansin dito. Parang hindi na nila ako kinukuha sa indie. Kaya nakaramdam din ako noon ng lungkot,” he revealed.
He surmised that filmmakers assumed they could no longer afford his talent fee.
“Hindi naman ako nag-a-ask ng mataas na talent fee. Alam naman natin ‘pag indie. Eh ang laki ng naging bahagi nito sa career ko,” he said.
So he himself sought out the material for his indie comeback. And when he locked in on “Sta. Nina”, the feature film debut of Emmanuel Quindo Palo, he decided to go all out and produce it himself,
In the film obviously inspired by Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala”, Coco plays a man who accidentally digs up the coffin of his 2-year-old daughter buried years ago under lahar, and discovers that her body remains untouched by decay. He takes the body home and it soon attracts a throng who believe it has miraculous healing powers.
Does Coco believe in miracles?
“Naniniwala naman ako sa isang himala. Sa isang milagro. Pero mas syempre ang paniwala ko sa ating Panginoon,” he said.
A devotee of the Black Nazarene, Coco mentioned that on the way to the CCP, he passed by the Quiapo Church to pray and give thanks to the Lord.
“Basta naman kasi may pagkakataon, hindi ko pinakakawalan. Kaya itong pagharap ko ngayon sa trabaho ko, talagang hindi ko binibitiwan. At naniniwala ako na walang imposible sa Panginoon,” he said.
And if fans are wondering why such a handsome matinee idol doesn’t have a girlfriend, it’s because he believes it’s a small price top pay for all his blessings.
“Kasi noon, alam ko, hiniling ko sa Panginoon eh. Na mabigyan ako ng trabaho. ‘Yung tuluy-tuloy. At natupad naman ‘yun. Itong success ko sa mainstream, di ko puwedeng bale-walain. Kaya ayokong bumitaw,” he explained.
“Kaya kahit na anong distraction pa ‘yan talagang hindi ko muna babaling sa iba ang atensyon ko. Biniyayaan ako. Binigyan ako ng blessings. Sinasamantala ko lang ang bawat pagkakataon ngayon,” he added.
He is the making the most of his stardom at the moment, because he realizes that his luck could change sooner or later.
“Nagiging realistiko lang ako sa ngayon. Dahil alam ko, one of these days, hindi na ito magiging ganito. Kung sunud-sunod ngayon ang mga ginagawa ko. Baka bukas-makalawa, maging matumal na. Kaya ayokong bumitaw. Baka hindi na ako maging ganito ka-relax in the future. At saka nag-iipon lang ako. Kaya bina-balanse ko lang ang lahat.”
Coco is very much in charge of his career. He is not just an actor who occasionally produces his own projects. On TV, he is actively involved on the creative side. When you see his real name Rodel Nacianceno in the opening credits of some ABS-CBN shows, that’s him taking part in the creative process.
“Sa ABS-CBN, part na rin ako ng Creative Team. ‘Yung may mga pagkakataon na nakakapag-contribute na ako sa mga ideas sa trabaho namin. Like sa soap ko. Pakialamero ako, eh. Sa hindi naman nakakairitang paraan. Hindi ko ‘yun mapigilan kapag may ideas akong gusto kong ihain o ilatag. Na napapag-agree-han naman. Gusto ko naman kahit paano involved talaga ako sa ginagawa kong trabaho,” he said.
So what else does he want to achieve in his career? For now, he just wants to keep going.
“Ayoko lang pong mapagod. ‘Pag napagod ako sa ginagawa kong ito, baka huminto ang swerte. Noon, hiniling kolang talaga bigyan ako ng trabaho kahit hindi ako matulog. Mabait ang Diyos. Ibinigay. Kaya ayoko lang itong balewalain.”