TV commercial models who rose to stardom

Nov 23, 2007
(From left to right, clockwise) Toni Gonzaga, Ryan Agoncillo, Sam Milby, Nikki Gil were welcomed by Pinoy viewers via their television commercials. They weren't celebrities then, not yet...but would-be fans enjoyed mimicking their lines in casual conversations.

Commercials allow some of us couch potatoes a few minutes' break—a trip to the frige or to the bathroom—when watching a favorite soap or the evening news.

We just might be missing something, though, like a fresh, promising face.

Many celebrities today started out as aspiring models who lined up for a VTR screen test, hoping to be in a commercial or even to make a showbiz breakthrough. Once chosen, they had a shot at "30 seconds of fame," while projecting themselves as star material. They didn't carry a big name then, but we'd probably remember the ad's jingle. Or, better yet, the catchy line they uttered.

And when they become famous we go, "Ay siya ‘yong sa commercial ng...!" Now their names are bigger than the products they used to sell us in our living rooms.

On the occasion of this year's 20th Philippine Advertising Congress, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) lists some stars, who became famous after they did commercials. We'll also help you remember what these celebs looked like then.

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Commercials normally tell a little story or catch our ear with a jingle. So, we placed the celebs in two groups. Find out who said the memorable lines and the catchy jingles used in other ads.

Let's start with commercial lines that became part of Pinoys' everyday speech.

"Karen po." (McDonalds) Remember how the teenage girl named Karen and her memory-challenged lolo, who had Alzheimer's, touched our hearts? While having their burger meal at McDonald's, the grandfather kept calling Karen, "Gina." No matter that she kept reminding him, "Karen po." Karen bore her growing dismay in silence. And then, lolo sliced his burger in half and, while wrapping it, he said, "Ito, para sa paborito kong apo. Si Karen." Beloved Karen smiled happily.

Karen Delos Reyes, or Glomirose Delos Reyes in real life, played the teenage girl in this commercial, which became her stepping-stone to teen stardom.

Karen joined the cast of the defunct youth-oriented show Click (1999). Although she was not as busy as other celebrities her age, Karen appeared each year in at least one GMA-7 soap opera. She also had supporting roles in the top-rated telenovelas Mulawin (2004) and Darna (2005). Her most recent project was the recently concluded Sine Serye titled Pati Ba Pintig ng Puso? where she portrayed Zosima.

"Are you in heat?" (Sprite's Magpakatotoo Ka campaign ad) For a time, groups of friends taking an elevator ride would banter with this line popularized by Ryan Agoncillo in the TV ad for Sprite. Ryan found himself in an awkward situation, trapped with a sexy lady (Patricia Javier) inside a stalled elevator with its conked-out aircon. Shyly he offered the lady his bottle of Sprite, and blurted, "Nag-iinit ka na ba? A, e...are you in heat?" Naturally, the lady took offense and slapped the flustered Ryan.

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This was not the first time Ryan appeared in a commercial. He was also prominent in some ads of the clothing line Penshoppe and in the wireless cellular network Islacom. Eventually, Ryan became an effective host in several TV talk shows, including the defunct late-morning TV show Talk TV (2001), and in Magandang Umaga, Bayan (2002), and Y Speak (2004).

Ryan attracted notice as an actor when he starred in Krystala (2004), where, they say, his relationship with prime actress Judy Ann Santos started to bloom. More movie projects followed, like Kutob (2005), Umaaraw, Umuulan (2006), Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo (2006), and My Kuya's Wedding (2007).

Ryan is currently working with his girlfriend Judy Ann in the teledrama Ysabella. Before this year ends, Ryan will be in the Metro Manila Film Festival with the movie Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo, the sequel of Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo.

Although he is now busier with acting projects—movie and teleserye offers coming left and right—Ryan sometimes goes back to where he started. We see him in the Fitrum commercial with Judy Ann. He still hosts TV shows, the most recent being Philippine Idol (2006). As rumor has it, Ryan will be hosting the second edition of Pinoy Dream Academy next year.

"Pare." (Sunsilk) Before this commercial, what fellow would have thought of calling his girl crush "Pare?" Now, guys do it, thanks to Drew Arellano. In his Sunsilk commercial series, Drew was attracted to his girl friend for her long, shiny black tresses. But, too shy to express his feelings, he called her "Pare" to avoid betraying himself.

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This shampoo ad was a way for Drew, a former account manager of an advertising agency, to gain popularity in local showbiz.

Drew first tried acting in Click, and then followed this up with a small role in the movie My First Romance (2003). He got a bigger role in the horror film Spirit of the Glass (2004). But Drew attracted producers more as a host rather than as an actor.

He became a regular in public affairs shows like Wazzup, Wazzup on Studio 23. He also hosted the recently concluded talent search show Coca-Cola's Ride to Fame with Karel Marquez, and is one of the traveling hosts of the morning show Unang Hirit.

"I love you, Piolo." (Sprite's Magpakatoto Ka ad campaign) It's a fact that actor Piolo Pascual really attracts a lot of women. They say these words whenever they meet Piolo in person, as Toni Gonzaga did it in her Sprite commercial.

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At a fair, coed Toni was stunned to see Piolo and didn't know how to catch his attention. When Piolo stood beside her to buy something, Toni was unable to control herself and shouted, "I love you, Piolo!" Toni gained instant popularity with this famous line.

That was not the first appearance of Toni on television. Even before she did this commercial, Toni was already a talent of GMA Artist Center and played small roles in television. At the time, she chose to be a freelancer and joined different auditions and VTR screenings for advertising.

After her stint with the popular Sprite ad, Toni was offered guest appearances in television shows. Her guest appearance in the defunct sitcom Daddy Di Do Du, attracted TAPE Inc., a production outfit, and she became a mainstay in GMA-7's noontime variety show Eat Bulaga!

After several months, Toni transferred to the rival station, ABS-CBN, where she had even more projects. She became a co-host of the noontime program Wowowee, the news program Wazzup, Wazzup, singing talent search Pinoy Dream Academy, and of course. the reality-based program Pinoy Big Brother.

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Aside from hosting, Toni also proved to be a good actress, especially in comedy, in movies such as D' Anothers (2005), You Are the One (2006), and You Got Me (2007). Adding to her success, Toni has already recorded three albums—a self-titled debut album in 2001, You Complete Me in 2006, and Falling in Love this year 2007.

"Kung saan ka masaya, suportahan taka." (PLDT) The main character of this commercial was a medical student who was afraid to tell his dad that he wanted to shift to Fine Arts. Finding courage, the young guy made a phone call to his dad and confessed his plan. A moment of silence. Then his dad said, "Kung saan ka masaya te, suportahan ta ka."

If other endorsers were made famous by their ad lines, future hunk actor Christian Vasquez was a different case. It was the father, not him, who uttered this line but the scene stuck to people's minds and easily associated it with Christian.

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Soon after appearing in the phone commercial, Christian was offered several supporting roles in movies and television. As a hunk actor, he appeared in the sexy films, Liberated (2003) and its sequel Liberated 2 (2004) and the sex-comedy movie Bridal Shower. He also appeared in the film comedies Manay Po (2006), ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh (2006), and Apat Dapat, Dapat Apat: Friends 4Lyf and Death (2007).

The hunk model was also included in some primetime teleseryes; his latest was in Ysabella (2007) where he played the role of Norman. Viewers learned more about him when he entered the famous Pinoy Big Brother house as one of its celebrity housemates last year.

"Ako, ako ,ako, laging na lang ako." (Tide) A nine-year-old kid named BJ Forbes first appeared in Eat Bulaga before he said his famous commercial line. He was one of the finalists in "That's My Boy," but people did not recognize him yet.

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He made his mark when he did a series of Tide commercials. The first series made a good impact on televiewers. He played the role of a student who rants to his mom about his teachers who consistently notice him because of his clean, white polo shirt. His line, "Ako, ako, ako, lagi na lang ako," became popular and was often repeated by working people.

After this, BJ, or popularly known as Tolits, became a regular in Eat Bulaga, like Aiza Seguerra, who was the "baby" of the show. Also at a young age, Tolits already had two movies with Box Office King Vic Sotto, Ispiritista: Itay, May Moomoo (2005) and in the third sequel of Enteng Kabisote (2006). He also won the Best Child Actor award in the 2006 FAMAS Awards for the movie Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom (2005).

The child actor also starred in fantaseryes like Etheria (2006) as young Aquil and Fantastikids (2007) as Don-Don. He is currently busy with his regular appearance in Eat Bulaga and in the new fantaserye Kamandag.

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Now, sing the following to remember the commercial that featured a celebrity.

"Just A Smile" (Close Up) Who can forget that smiling guy making "pa-cute" moves to Barbie Almalbis, who was singing the Close Up jingle, "Just A Smile," while riding a bus? When Barbie got down at her stop, this cute guy hurriedly followed but lost her trail. He went on searching for her, to no avail. At the end of the day, he rode another bus and surprise! There she was again, the girl he had met earlier, now sitting beside him. They looked at each other and our shy guy, Sam Milby, flashed that unforgettable smile.

After his big break in the Close Up commercial, Sam got another one that signaled his showbiz career. He was chosen to enter the controversial Pinoy Big Brother house, replacing one of the housemates who had left earlier. Inside the house, people saw Sam's talent in composing songs and singing when he sang "Magmahal Muli" with fellow housemate Say Alonzo. Sam originally wrote the song in English and the other housemates helped him translate it into Tagalog.

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After that PBB season ended, other windows of opportunity opened up for the showbiz newbie. First, he was chosen to become part of the Star Magic family. Later, he released two albums-a self-titled album (2006) and A Little Too Perfect (2007). In less than a year, Sam has performed in several concerts here and abroad, including The Heartthrob concert with Piolo Pascual.

In TV shows, he became part of ASAP where he performs as a singer and sometimes hosts the show. While still learning fluency in Tagalog, Sam's acting clearly improved in the TV series Maging Sino Ka Man, which will have its sequel next year. Moreover, in just one year after his stint in PBB, Sam starred in three comedy-romance films produced by Star Cinema—Close to You (2006), You Are the One (2007), and You Got Me (2007).

Sam, now a hot screen heartthrob, still does numerous endorsements—Jollibee, Centrum, Bench, Smart, Hawk, and Lipton Milk Tea, to name a few.

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"Sana." (Coke) Remember the lady in red who gave out Coca-Cola to every person she met while singing "Sana"? That was the first TV break for Nikki Gil, who touched every Filipino with her heartwarming song.

Lucky Nikki became a regular host of ASAP, celebrity VJ of MYX, and one of the hosts of the first Pinoy Dream Academy and of Wowowee.

Her singing career also rose as she released a self-titled debut album in 2005. For Disney Channel's High School Musical soundtrack, she recorded her own rendition of the song "Breaking Free." Nikki must have impressed the people at Disney, she was tapped again to record another song for them, the Asian version of "Gotta Go My Own Way" for the Philippine soundtrack of High School Musical 2.

Nikki is set to host again in the second installment of Pinoy Dream Academy early next year.

"Hottah, Hottah." (Coke) She was dancing to the beat of Coke's "Hottah Hottah" summer special with two other guys. The camera said, "She's very pretty." The men exclaimed, "She's hot!" The ladies curiously asked, "Who is that girl?"

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That was the Fil-Aussie commercial model named Iya Villania. She's now a bigger star than she was when she appeared in the Coke commercial. Aside from that, she has posed for Jag Jeans fashion spread, played a sexy bartender for Lux shampoo, and portrayed other roles for several advertisements.

From a few minutes of TV exposure, Iya was cast as part of of the show Click. Eventually she entered the movies, with supporting roles in Aishite Imasu (Mahal Kita) (2004), Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom (2005), Pamahiin (2006), and Paano Kita Iibigin (2007). Even more exposure was given her when ABS-CBN chose her as Lastikman's lady love, Yellena.

Apart from acting, Iya is also a smooth dancer, as seen in two episodes of the dance program U Can Dance, which she also hosted with Derek Ramsey. Sometimes in ASAP she dances with the other known dance celebrities, like John Prats, Shaina Magdayao, Rayver Cruz, and Maja Salvador.

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This 21-year-old multi-talented Fil-Aussie lady has also proven that she has the skill to host a show, as in the defunct game show in IBC-13 Gamechannel, US Girls, ASAP, and Wowowee. She is also a celebrity VJ in MYX Channel.

In earlier years, there have been other commercials that helped young talents gain popularity in showbiz. We remember Alice Dixson, with sexy actress Shiela Ysrael, promoting Palmolive soap with her "I can feel it!"
Then there were also Ina Raymundo and Rachel Lobangco who both endorsed San Miguel beer in different years. Rachel's San Mig ad popularized Apo Hiking Society's song "Siboom," while Ina Raymundo's commercial coined the term "Sabado Nights" for weekend gimmicks.

The next time you sink into your couch, don't take commercials for granted. Who knows? The next celebrity may spring from that 30-second plug.

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(From left to right, clockwise) Toni Gonzaga, Ryan Agoncillo, Sam Milby, Nikki Gil were welcomed by Pinoy viewers via their television commercials. They weren't celebrities then, not yet...but would-be fans enjoyed mimicking their lines in casual conversations.
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