Joanna Ampil is now all over – thankfully, in all the right places.
Oh, did you say: Joanna Ampil who?
Joanna Ampil is a very much accomplished theater actress, who, sadly is not very well known here in the Philippines. At least, not yet. The reason for this is that she does most of her work abroad.
Her biggest role must be as Kim in Miss Saigon – after Lea Salonga originated the part at the West End in London. The rest of her theater works are nothing to sneeze at. Here are just some of them: As Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ, Superstar, as Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables, as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, and as Grizabella in Cats.
She has done a couple of recordings here in the country, but she was away mostly in the past decades.
In 2017, she came into the consciousness of Filipino movie fans when she was cast as Candida Marasigan in Ang Larawan, an entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Everyone who saw her in that movie became a fan.
When she won filmfest best actress for that film, she surprised those at the awards venue (the Kia Theater) when she went up on stage no longer looking like the spinsterish Candida. What they saw instead was a gorgeous-looking woman with silky smooth skin clutching the MMFF trophy.
Six months later, she was back at the awards scene – accepting another best actress trophy (also for Ang Larawan), this time at the 41st Gawad Urian of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
Joanna was based in Shanghai that time doing Cats. She flew in to Manila only on the day of the awards presentation to personally collect her trophy and promptly left the country after that.
This year, she became more visible to local audiences. Last summer, she shot ang Babae sa Septic Tank 3 for iWant of ABS-CBN. Released only recently, this third installment of the Septic Tank franchise has Eugene Domingo appearing as – hold your breath – the very Irish widow of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal in The Untold Story of Josephine Bracken.
Joanna figures in a hilarious confrontation scene with Mylene Dizon in the final episode. Playing diva actresses cast as Rizal’s sisters, they resort to name-calling - “inggitera, etc.” At one point, Mylene calls her “starlet.” Swiftly turning around, Joanna spits out: “Excuse me, may Urian ako!” To which Mylene replies: “Mas may Urian ako!” (Mylene Dizon really did win the Urian – in 2008 for the film 100.)
Joanna is again part of the cast of the ongoing iWant series Call Me Tita that features very respectable actresses, led by Lorna Tolentino.
Two Saturdays ago, she jolted the world of Philippine television with one of the finest performances ever on the small screen in Maalaala Mo Kaya.
The episode is entitled “Kadena” and here she plays a mother with an untreated bipolar disorder. As one may have surmised from the title, yes, she is chained and confined at home so that she doesn’t go around hurting herself and being a menace to other people.
“Kadena” is culled from the real-life story of a Davao-based broadcaster named Kirby – played as an adult by Kiko Estrada. Joanna is his mother and she is called Corazon in the story.
The episode starts with Corazon as a young mother. And the viewers see Joanna as a kind, loving and carefree woman with peroxide hair.
As the story progresses, her mental health deteriorates as she gets older. Since Corazon is not exactly a lunatic, Joanna has to be careful with the way she portrays the part of a woman who lost some of her marbles.
Watching Joanna interpret the real-life character of a woman with bipolar condition, I made a mental survey of the ABS-CBN stable of veteran actresses who could have also done the part.
Under a much decorated soap opera star – an overrated one – the National Center for Mental Health would have uprooted itself from its present Mandaluyong site to be away as far as possible from her over-the-top acting.
Thank you, thank you - the ABS-CBN production people remembered Joanna Ampil and cast her in that role. She’s the best choice – I swear.
A less disciplined actress could have ruined this very challenging part. But Joanna shows restraint and in the process she is able to exhibit the various nuances of bipolar behavior. What is truly impressive is the way she manages to shift moods practically at the flick of a finger. It’s always a seamless transition.
While Maalaala Mo Kaya’s “Kadena” episode played that Saturday night, I can imagine Magpakailanman on GMA also trying to get its own share of viewers that same evening by dramatizing another real-life case – a far more sensational one.
The Magpakailanman story made headlines just a few months ago. This is about the security guard who shot dead a 15-year old kid right in the boy’s classroom.
Compared to the Magpakailanman crime of passion plot, the “Kadena” feature of Maalaala Mo Kaya is ho-hum. As a viewer, however, you get mesmerized with Joanna’s performance that you wouldn’t want to change channels anymore.
Kiko Estrada, of course, should also be given credit for the artistic success of the “Kadena” episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya. He is outstanding as the son who made a lot of sacrifices for the sake of his mother.
The tandem of Joanna and Kiko was magical in that episode – especially with Carol Banawa’s “Iingatan Ka” song playing in the background. If only the collective tears of the viewers could be gathered and dumped into a giant reservoir, we’d never have to worry about having any more water crisis in the future.
This December, Joanna will be performing overseas again – in Singapore for Cats and Jesus Christ, Superstar. Hopefully, she’ll do more projects here in the Philippines again in 2020. Her truly unforgettable performance in Maalaala Mo Kaya surely gained her a lot of followers among local viewers.
The Wikipedia says that she was born on June 1, 1975. While she’s no longer spring chicken, I have to say that Joanna Ampil is still hot at 44.
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