For indie actress Natileigh “Nats” Sitoy, being an actress in the Philippine showbiz industry is no easy feat.
In the midst of her growing career, she had thoughts of closing the curtains, having this mindset that she does not fit the right mold of a typical actress in the Philippines.
“’Pag naging artista ka dito [sa Pilipinas] kailangan mo maging maganda, kailangan mong maging payat, mestiza, matangkad,” she explains. “Hindi naman ako ganoon. Mahirap talaga ’yong competition here. You have to have the right connections. Mahirap talaga.”
Yet, on the brink of giving up, an opportunity to star in a Japanese film came knocking on Nats’ door. After passing the two-part audition, Nats found herself in one of the starring roles in a Japanese drama film called Itoshi No Irene (Come On, Irene). Having worked with the film’s wonderful cast and crew, Nats then began to realize that her career has something more than meets the eye.
“Sa movie na ’to, doon ko na-feel na huwag muna,” she reflects. “Ang dami kong na-realize na ‘Hindi pa. Kaya mo pa!’”
THE LOVE FOR HER CRAFT
It was in college where Nats had her first peek in the world of acting. She joined a theatrical organization in the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde where she got to first hone her passion for drama. After graduating, she landed a stint as an associate producer for an indie film, but her love for performing did not fade there.
“Dati pa akong na-inlove sa acting kaya ko siya binabalikan,” Nats says. “Ang gusto ko kasi sa acting parang binubuhay mo ’yong isang karakter eh. Gusto ko ’yong feeling na you give justice to this character.”
After the film packed up, she went back home to Cebu for a short time before going back to attend a workshop conducted by acclaimed film director Brillante Mendoza. It was that moment where acting began giving back to the then-rising actress.
“In fairness naman, nagtuloy-tuloy after [noon]. Nag-Cinema One ako, nakapag-Cinemalaya, and now I’m doing television [series] also.” she says.
“Laban lang! Go lang nang go. There are times in our lives na parang gusto mo nang mag-give up, pero may gagawin at gagawin si God ng way para sabihin na ‘Wait lang! Huwag ka muna tumigil. Meron pa.’ at sa movie na ‘to, doon ko na-feel ’yon.” ---on having second chances
Blessings continue to shower for Nats, especially during her stint in the Cinema One Originals Film Festival. Her appearance in the movie Lily co-starring Shaina Magdayao and Rocky Salumbides gave her an award for Best Supporting Actress.
However, it was her most recent project Itoshi No Irene (Come On, Irene) where she felt that she reinforced her love for acting, especially because of her attachment to her character Irene.
“Heto talaga ’yong role na pinaghandaan ko for almost a year,” she narrates. “Kasi we shot [the movie] in summer and winter, so may five months gap. So, kailangan ko siyang ibalik, ilabas, tas ibalik. So, feeling ko na-attach ako sa kanya.”
HER BELOVED IRENE
She then proceeded to recount the time she auditioned for the role of Irene, most notably the second part of her audition where she met the Japanese production crew of the movie for the final casting.
“Pagpasok ko doon sa final casting, nag-hi ako agad sa Filipino producers,” she recollects, remembering how she was greeting them in a jolly manner. “Tas nakalimutan ko na nandoon nga pala [’yong Japanese production crew]. Ang dami nila.”
Upon seeing the Japanese producers on set, she began innocently greeting them, shifting her jolly greetings to a more formal one. It was that moment where director Keisuke Yoshida knew that Nats was the perfect person to cast as Irene because of their similarities in personalities and gesture.
It was June 2017 when Nats got the callback to play Irene. The production gave her one and a half months to prepare for her role of an 18-year-old girl bought by a middle-aged Japanese man for marriage.
“What I did was nag-character analysis ako kay Irene. I also did interviews [with] people who went to Japan, ’yong parang experiences nila,” Nats recalls. “Two days before I flew to Japan, nagkulong ako sa bahay. Gusto ko i-balik noong 18-years-old ako. That whole time, noong two days, binabalik ko ’yong time na 18 ako.”
Her training did not end there. Upon arriving in The Land of the Rising Sun, Nats immersed herself to improve her character analysis. She visited Filipino pubs, interviewed OFWs, and did a little research. She also took on a month-long course of basic Nihonggo, learning not only the words but the intonation of how the Japanese spoke their native language.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Working in a Japanese production opened Nats’ eyes to a brand new world. She really saw the difference between a Philippine and Japanese film production during her time with Itoshi No Irene (Come On, Irene).
“Iba-iba lang rin ’yong style,” she confirms. “Doon kasi sa Japan, bilisan. Dito [sa Pilipinas], I’m not saying it’s bad, antay, antay. Doon, sobrang conscious sila sa time. Grabe sila ’pag nag-work sila. Siguro, let’s say tatlong beses na ako umihi, sila hindi pa sila umiihi. Ganoon sila!”
However, for Nats, the production was not all work. She recalled one of her unforgettable experience while filming was with veteran Japanese actress Hana Kino, where she had to carry her on her back in the mountains of snow.
“Sinabi ko sa mga staff ‘’Pag natapos na ’tong scene na ’to, mag s-snow angel ako’,” she recalls herself saying. “Kasi first time ko ma-experience ’yong snow doon eh. ’Pag cut na, nag-jump ako sa snow. Nagulat ako na si Ms. Hana Kino, nag-jump din. So, lahat ng tao parang nagulat. Tas nag-i-i-snow angel kaming dalawa. Unforgettable moment talaga siya.”
“’Pag naging artista ka dito [sa Pilipinas] kailangan mo maging maganda, kailangan mong maging payat, mestiza, matangkad. Hindi naman ako ganoon. Mahirap talaga ’yong competition here. You have to have the right connections. Mahirap talaga.” ---on having an acting career in the Philippines
A SECOND CHANCE
When asked what she learned throughout filming Itoshi No Irene (Come On, Irene), she could not help but be teary-eyed and recall the times she was about to pack her bags from acting.
“Laban lang! Go lang nang go,” she recalls learning. “There are times in our lives na parang gusto mo nang mag-give up, pero may gagawin at gagawin si God ng way para sabihin na ‘Wait lang! Huwag ka muna tumigil. Meron pa.’ at sa movie na ‘to, doon ko na-feel ’yon.”
“I was about to give up [acting],” she continues. “Ayoko na, tas biglang sa movie na ’to, doon ko na-feel na ‘Huwag muna’ [...] Hindi pa. Kaya mo pa.’”
As the movie hits Philippine cinemas on July 31, opportunities keep on coming for the indie actress. Recently, she starred in the third installation of Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank starring Eugene Domingo and Tony Labrusca, and in the upcoming Cinemalaya 2019 entry Belle Douleur starring Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson. She is also set to star in an upcoming ABS-CBN television series called Sandugo.
With opportunities piling up, the future stands bright for Nats Sitoy, and we cannot wait what is next.
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