Giselle: I'll never leave this biz

By Leah Salterio
Inquirer News Service

"I'M ENJOYING the best of both worlds," gushed Giselle Tongi two weeks after she arrived in Manila from the United States, where she has been based for four years now.

"I've done more work in the past two weeks I've been here than in the past four years I've stayed in the US," Giselle said. "Whenever I return to Manila, there's always work waiting for me."

"This is what I want to do for the rest of my life," she said, "sing, dance and act. I know this is where I'm really good at, I never had a doubt about it. I cannot imagine myself leaving show biz for good. This job has been really good to me. I've been blessed beyond what I could only imagine, and that is a big thing to be thankful for."

Giselle arrived on the first week of September and, thanks to Genesis Entertainment which manages her career in Manila, she was immediately swamped with appointments for live TV guest appearances, tapings, performances and even movie roles.

Giselle expects to get her renewed US working visa by the end of October and hopes to return to Los Angeles to work again. The past four years, she has tirelessly tried her luck at auditions in the US in the hope of snagging a good movie or TV role.

"This country (Philippines) has been good to me," Giselle said. "It has given me a lot of opportunities to do so many things in my life which I would never be able to do in a different place. I will always come back here. I will never give up on this market. I will never turn my back on my fellow Filipinos."

Giselle, who started in show biz when she was only 16, was among many upstarts who made it into the business because of her pretty face. However, she has been able to carve a niche for herself in Philippine entertainment.

Star, actress

"I didn't strive to become a star," she maintained. "One of my early directors, Boots Plata, who directed me in 'Siyempre, Ikaw Pa Rin' with Eric Quizon, told me, 'Don't strive to be a star because stars fade, but actresses last a lifetime.'

"When I left show biz four years ago, I was totally burned out. I guess I became greedy as an actor at that time, accepting projects left and right, even if the work didn't satisfy me. Some of the projects even made me compromise my integrity for money and I didn't feel good about doing that."

Leaving for the country at the peak of her career and living in another country was a humbling experience for her, as well as a big struggle, both personally and professionally.

"The hardships I went through in the US I will never experience here," Giselle said. "There, I do my own laundry, I drive, I look for the cheaper place to get a sandwich, I live from paycheck to paycheck. But those things help me evolve as a person."

She has learned to be more practical, even in buying clothes. "I don't buy trendy clothes there because I can't wear them since I'm not a celebrity," Giselle said. "I live a normal life in the US. Here in Manila, being in show biz is like living in a bubble. You have a set routine which is calculated and often stagnant. You can only go to certain places where there aren't too many people. In the States, I have the liberty to go wherever I want to, without thinking of anyone watching me."

'Sensuality onstage'

She enrolled at the Lee Strasberg School of Acting in New York and for 22 hours a week, studied the principles of acting technique by Stanislavsky. The same school produced such Hollywood acting greats as Robert de Niro and Al Pacino.

Giselle's auditions yielded a role in the play "Days When Cocaine Was King," which ran for six weeks in Los Angeles early this year. She played a Latina salsa dancer who falls in love with a white boy. Of her performance, Variety wrote, "Tongi radiates sensuality onstage." Giselle was thrilled.

Giselle is also excited about working with Vic Sotto for the first time in the fantasy-comedy, "Enteng Kabisote," one of the entries in the Metro Manila Film Festival in December. She reprises the character of the fairy queen Ina Magenta, originally played in the sitcom and the two earlier "Okay Ka, Fairy Ko" films by the late actress Charito Solis.

"I researched on Tita Charito's role and I'm so excited because she's this character who gets to wear all these flamboyant and colorful costumes," Giselle said.

For Peque

She will also do a cameo role in the latest Peque Gallaga opus, "Nang Panahong Naging Blonde ang Pinoy," which reunites her with her erstwhile boyfriend, Epi Quizon. Epi played a bit part in the Giselle-Eric Quizon starrer, "Langit sa Piling Mo." "Blondes" marks Giselle's third film 
with Peque, after "Delirio" and "Sa Puso ng Pasko."

To be bankrolled by Tony Gloria's Unitel Pictures, which also produced the award-wining "Crying Ladies" in last year's Metro Manila film fest, "Blonde" also stars Boy 2 Quizon, Ricky Davao, Jimmy Fabregas, Iza Calzado, plus cameos by more than 40 stars including Richard Gomez, Tonton Gutierrez, Joel Torre, Cherie Gil, Cherry Pie Picache, Tessie Tomas, Ian Veneracion, Gabby and Ryan Eigenmann, Richard Gutierrez, Ara Mina, Mark Gil, Michael de Mesa, Vandolph Quizon and Eddie Garcia.

"I accepted the role, no matter how short it is, because of Peque," Giselle said. "I didn't want to pass up this chance to be able to work with him again."

Her career remains Giselle's priority, so that even when her friends-like Ruffa Gutierrez and Donita Rose- have married and have started having children, Giselle continues to look for her biggest break in show biz.

She admits the thought of marriage sometimes makes her pause and think, but she doesn't look for any serious involvement that might eventually lead to marriage-or, at least, not yet.


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