SINGAPORE — Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips/Fish Skin? Honestly, I’ve been to this Island State almost a dozen times and mostly for Hollywood junkets, and it was the first time I’ve heard about Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips/Fish Skin. Somebody close to me has ordered for them and the long and winding search took us around this city and, eureka, found them at Terminal 2 of Changi Airport.
The items are available in very few selected stores (one in Vivo City) but, believe it or not, they are always out of stock (“Everything Out!” screamed a sign at the little store in Vivo City) and if you order, you have to wait for at least a week for the goods to be delivered. Yes, the Irvins are that precious! When we finally bought three bagfuls at Terminal 2, a Filipina matron sneered, “No wonder it’s out of stock!” Somebody in our group hissed, in jest of course, “Huwag tatanga-tanga para hindi maubusan!”
I was in Singapore not for Irvins but for interviews with Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man being launched in Spider-Man: Homecoming (why it’s so titled, will be explained in a future article), and Jacob Batalon, the Filipino actor who plays Spidey’s sidekick Ned Leeds. Singapore has become the favorite venue for Hollywood junkets. Last year, The STAR was invited to cover several of them, including those for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Captain America: Civil War and the Sony Summit for three films (the Magnificent Seven reboot, Inferno and Ghostbusters).
Since it’s so near (and yet seems so far away…or that’s what Filipino stars think), Singapore is the favorite “hideaway” of Filipino stars who conveniently forget that there are swarms of Filipinos (tourists and OFWs) in every nook and cranny, especially in must-see spots like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel topped by a boat-shaped infinity pool, the Merlion, Universal Studios, Night Safari and more. When we were there, the cast of the GMA romcom Meant To Be (MTB) was there to shoot precisely in the places mentioned.
Because we opted to stay two more days after the Spider-Man junket, we were able to unwind a bit and visit some places that we had been taking for granted. Previous trips were “all work and no play” — you know, “sleepless as always” — and so we were able to maximize our time. At the Gardens By The Bay right beside Marina Bay Sands Hotel, we were able to, so to speak, smell the flowers and bask in the much-welcomed serenity provided by the trees here, there and everywhere. A virtual green paradise!
Of course, what made our extended sojourn memorable was a dinner date with Bibeth Orteza at Paradise Dynasty Restaurant at Ion Orchard. In case you haven’t heard, Bibeth plays the maid Roza (who speaks with a Visayan accent…perfect acting for the Waray actress, ‘no?) in the play Boeing Boeing, touted as “The Year’s Sexiest Comedy,” written by Marc Camoletti and directed by Pam Oei (who played one of the three stewardesses in 2002 when it was first staged here). The stars (aside from Bibeth): Rodney Oliveiro (Bernard), Oon Shu An (Jeanette), Judee Tan (Jin Jin), Sangeetha Dorai (Jayanthi) and Shane Mardjuki (Robert).
From the play’s flyer: It’s a swinging bachelor’s dream come true: Three beautiful air stewardesses, each taking her turn as his girlfriend…and each happily unaware of the others’ existence. Sounds impossible? Not if you’re Bernard, a modern-day Casanova! With careful, down-to-the-minute scheming, he has managed to keep his hectic love life cruising at the perfect altitude.
But turbulence ensues when his friend Robert comes to stay. Suddenly, Bernard’s schedule falls apart, as typhoons, volcanic ash and speedier planes wreak havoc on his precision planning. Can Bernard ride out the storm? (Note: The play was inspired by the 1965 movie of the same title starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis.)
According to Straits Times, “(The) in-flight entertainment is well worth catching.” Produced by Wild Rice, Boeing Boeing is playing at the Victoria Theatre from June 23 to July 22. Bibeth flew here from Manila on May 28 to start rehearsals.
Over bowls of Chicken Mami, Bibeth said, “We rehearse every day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Mondays. After one week, drop scripts na. We are doing the run-throughs already. After three weeks, we do onstage rehearsals already. I am amazed by the theater tradition here, malakas talaga! My co-stars are professional and punctual. Lahat ng artista dumarating on time; wala namang traffic kasi, eh! I arrived early this morning and my director said, ‘A punctual Pinoy! You are so rare!’”
Other Filipino actors who have performed in Singapore were Karylle and Christian Bautista (for Kitchen Musical), Bibeth’s son Rafa (for Saturday Night Fever) and Michael de Mesa (for Rent).
“I got the role through Michael,” continued Bibeth. “The director wanted someone my age (63). Pam Oei was Michael’s director in Rent (2001) and her husband was Epy Quizon’s director in the movie Unlucky Plaza. Epy also recommended me. They auditioned six actors last year; I was the sixth. As the maid Roza, I speak a few Tagalog lines, such as ‘Babalik na ako sa Pilipinas. Uuwi na ako kay Duterte.’ Mga ganyan.”
Bibeth got the go-signal from Vic Sotto whom she’s directing on the GMA comedy Hay Bahay. They decided to shoot advance episodes good for two months, the length of Bibeth’s stay in Singapore which has become a second home to her because her husband, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, taught Filmmaking at the New York University (NYU) School of Acting (Singapore branch) for eight years.
“At that time,” recalled Bibeth, “my children and I would visit Carlitos when he wasn’t able to go to Manila. One Christmas, we told Carlitos that we would go to Singapore to be with him. He said, ‘Okay, come to Singapore and I will go to Manila.’ We ended up spending Christmas in New York. Now that I’m here, it will be Carlitos and our children’s turn to be visiting me. They will be here for the gala night.”
At this point in her life when she has done everything (well, almost!), why did Bibeth have to accept an offer that would take her away from home?
“You know,” said Bibeth, “I’m 63, a cancer survivor. Why wouldn’t I do a challenge like this? Carlitos is the kind of husband who would be the first one to encourage me to do it.”