What Care-Giver has taught Sharon
By Ricardo F. Lo
Sharon Cuneta spent 21 days in London shooting vital scenes for her latest movie, Star Cinema’s Care-Giver, directed by Chito Roño, and she came home last week a “different” person.

“My respect for care-givers in particular and all OFWs in general went up 1,000 percent,” Sharon told Funfare. “Hindi pala biro ang hirap nila doon — physically, mentally and emotionally.”

In her first movie after more than four years, Sharon plays a care-giver, with John Estrada as her husband, and Rica Peralejo and Nikki Valdez among their other co-stars.

“John jokingly called me ‘wifey’ and I called him ‘hubby’ or hubbs.’ He really took care of me during our scenes together. John is a very good actor. I was teasing him na parang may pagka-‘incestuous’ ang mga kissing scene namin because I first met him when he was 16 or 17 pa lang. Friend siya ng aking ‘ex’ (Richard Gomez), di ba? But we are happy, it was fun. ‘Yun na lang ang pantawid namin sa hirap ng filming doon.

“I’ve always been fond of Rica and Nikki who is my inaanak sa kasal. We used to see each other during the tapings of our respective shows. Ok Fine Whatever ang show nila. Pareho ang taping sked namin noon, so kami ni Aga (Muhlach) at Bayani (Agbayani), and sometimes Edu (Manzano), whoever finished taping first would visit the set of the other show. But even after Ok Fine folded up, kami nina Rica at Nikki we kept in touch.

“On the Care-Giver set, di hamak na mas ni-love ko si Rica girl ko. Sobrang bait niya! Rica left for Manila a week ahead of John and me, and when I was saying goodbye to her, iyak ako nang iyak. I cried even more when I got to the van and had to leave her in the hotel because I had to go to the shooting. Mahal na mahal ko siya even more now. She made things easy; siya ang nagpapagaan ng loob ko because when she started making jokes, I would end up with a bellyache from laughing too much.”

The movie is a labor of love, according to Sharon who scored many “firsts” with Care-Giver. Aside from working for the first time with John, Rica and Nikki, it was also Sharon’s first time to be working with non-Filipino actors and being away from home for that long.

“The non-Filipino actors are real actors, each of whom auditioned in London along with 20 to 30 other actors for each of the roles when direk Chito and Star Cinema producer Elma Medua and their staff went there last year for location-hunting and to choose the actors needed for the movie. The actors are playing major roles, not just bit parts.”

And for the first time in her career, Sharon had to shoot every day for 21 days, getting only what she called “one precious day-off” but she survived it very beautifully.

“Eighty percent of the movie is set in London, so most of our filming had to be done there. Pressure, pressure, pressure!!! I was getting only about two to three hours of sleep every night and before I could sleep soundly pa, madaling-araw na pala. I was lucky if I could get five hours, which was very rare. We were constantly mobile. We moved from one location to another, sometimes traveling from 2 a.m. after we packed up until 5:30 a.m. By the time settled na kami in a hotel, it was way past 6 a.m., so we would sleep a wink and then back to shooting. I looked forward to the long trips because you just came from shooting, di ka rin makatulog.”

Compounding the situation was the fact that they were working with a “skeleton crew” which is approximately only one-fourth of the average number of people on a local set.

“So all of us were multi-tasking. Kami ni direk Chito nakikisali sa ‘art department.’ We would shout ‘Art Department!’ and then we ourselves would fix the things and props needed for the scene after each rehearsal.”

Contrary to reports, Sharon and direk Chito worked in a harmonious atmosphere.

“Direk Chito really knows what he’s doing. Napaka-galing! Napaka-talented! Napaka-150 percent present in aspects of a scene. I wonder how he does it. He notices every little thing on the video-assist. During breaks, he would joke around with us but during work hours, he was strict. He’s like a teacher na ‘terror’ nung high school ako. You are afraid not to do your homework kasi ibabagsak ka kaagad if you don’t submit your work on time. In a lot of ways, under direk Chito I was like a child who was eager to learn from a good teacher. I learned a lot by just watching him, especially when he was directing me in my scenes. I have made a mental note of each and every little thing na sinabi, tinuro at pinuna niya sa work ko. No wonder ang gaganda ng mga movies niya.”

All in all, said Sharon, Care-Giver is so far her most difficult movie to shoot.

“I’ve never had a more grueling shooting. During my 21 days in London, I never had a chance to go to a decent restaurant. To think that we were in the land of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and lamb, etc. Puro kami take-out or fast-food. Or vendo-machine sandwiches. Maryosep! And in those 21 days, I wasn’t able to enter even one store. Our schedule was that tight. I was able to buy pasalubong doon na sa duty-free on the plane home. Joke ko nga, hindi ko naramdaman and London except for the cold. Super-praning ang weather doon.”

Care-Giver is the perfect comeback movie for Sharon. Her last three starrers were Walang Kapalit (with Richard Gomez) in May 2003, Kung Ako Na Lang Sana (with Aga Muhlach) in Sept. 2003 and Crying Ladies in Dec. 2003.

“I am so proud of Care-Giver,” she gushed. “So I’m excited to have everyone see it na!”

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