Growing up is painful. True story. But it's the only way for a child to become an adult.
Moviemaker Mark Reyes directs GMA Films' Tween Academy: Class of 2012, a movie about friendship, peer pressure, and romance as seen through the eyes of the high school youth.
Direk Mark, who first worked with college students in the '90s adolescent series, TGIS (Thank God It's Sabado), on the GMA network, now works with "tweens." Coined from the word "between," it refers to that confusing and bewildering transition from childhood to adulthood.
Tween Academy is based on the Kapuso channel's regular Saturday afternoon serving of Tween Hearts which originally starred the fresh faces of GMA's Barbie Forteza, Joshua Dionisio, Bea Binene, Jhake Vargas, Joyce Ching, Kristoffer Martin, Lexi Fernandez, Derrick Monasterio, Yassi Pressman, andLouise delos Reyes.
The film adaptation now includes Alden Richards, leading man of Louise in the recently concluded weekday afternoon drama Alakdana on GMA. Tween Academy likewise adds singer-musician Julie Anne San Jose to its roster.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) recently sat down with the rowdy and playful cast of Tween Academy and asked them about teenage life, off-screen romances, raging hormones, the art of juggling school and showbiz, and (gasp!) teenage pregnancy.
Despite their mischievous antics, light-hearted laughs, and constant teasing, PEP was impressed by the bunch. Joshua, Kristoffer, Lexi, Yasi, Joyce, Louise, and Alden are wise beyond their years.
ROLE MODEL TWEENS. Starring in a major network program is not just about the fame. Playing the part of a tween is a responsibility.
Joyce Ching who plays Ashley in the movie says, "May part sa amin na nakaka-pressure kasi tinitignan kami ng mga ka-age namin.
"Lagi sa aking sinasabi, 'Bantayan mo ang ginagawa kasi yung mga tao sa paligid mo kahit hindi mo gusto na gayahin, gagayahin ka nila.' Kaya dapat super ingat, " says the 16-year-old chinita beauty.
They never expected being a role model as part of the job.
Joshua, 16, stresses the importance of being true to yourself: "Ayoko yung pinapakita lang yung magandang character onscreen and sa mga interviews."
The young leading man, who has starred in Kapuso soaps such as Pilyang Kerubin, Stairway to Heaven, and Nita Negrita, looks up to his grandfather.
"Yung lolo ko, madaldal pero marami siyang kaibigan. Kahit na minsan very frank siya magsalita, at least totoo siya.
"Marami siyang friends na... totoo sa kanya. Wala siyang friend na 'pag nakaharap lang mabait," he says.
Meanwhile Lexi, 16, admires her mom, actress, model, and entrepreneur, Maritoni Fernandez.
"Si Mama kasi, sobrang lakas niyang tao. Cancer survivor siya."
Maritoni was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 but is now in remission. She is a spokesperson for breast cancer patients and survivors.
On the other hand, 18-year-old Louise believes role models are also human beings. Thus, they can be imperfect.
"Para sa akin, siyempre walang perpekto sa mundo.
"Mahihirapan ka rin kung iisipin mo yung role model na walang flaws, na walang pagkakamali."
The Alakdana lead actress, who is a junior at the Lyceum of the Philippines University (Cavite), majoring in Foreign Service, says she falls short of her standards as role model to the youth.
"Hindi ko nakikita na role model ako kasi alam ko yung mga pagkukulang ko," she says.
Louise, who has a scholarship at the Lyceum for three years now, is determined to graduate next year.
She shares with PEP the challenges of getting to class on time, memorizing her lines while stuck in traffic jams, and arriving on the set before call time.
The past semester, she says, was a struggle.
"Full load ako last sem, tapos kasabay 'nun yung Alakdana. E, yung Alakdana minsan one week kami sunod-sunod yung taping, tapos inaabot ng umaga. 'Di na ako nakakapasok.
"Dun lang po ako medyo na-pressure kasi mine-maintain ko po yung scholarship ko... tatlong taon ko na po siya pinaghirapan. Sayang naman kung ngayon pa ako bibitaw. One year na lang, e."
Alden, 18, talks about his early trials in life.
"I stopped studying. Kumbaga yung financial standing po namin... is not good. My dad asked me if I could stop muna."
"Kasi ito [showbiz career] naman po yung kapalit."
For Alden, his recent projects are "opportunities" he grabbed "to save money."
A business administration major in De La Salle, Canlubang, his earnings help augment the family income. Knowing the value of education, he plans to go back to school and get a degree.
It was his idea to start a career in showbiz. He told his father: "Dad let's just take a risk. Baka suwertehin tayo."
So far, Alden's hard work has been rewarded.
TOUGH LOVE AND TEENAGE PREGNANCY. What are the tweens's views on teenage pregnancy?
Yassi, 15, says no to pre-marital sex. "Kahit anong gawin mo hindi ka pa ready. May trabaho ka na ba? May money ka na ba?"
She tells the story of someone she knows who became pregnant at an early age. "I saw her suffer. Yun yung pinakamahirap."
"When she was with her boyfriend, sobrang saya niya.
"When she got pregnant, [she was rejected] by her boyfriend. She suffered, her family suffered, too."
Meanwhile, Lexi has taken an anti-abortion stand. "Take responsibility dahil andiyan na yan e. Abortion is not an option."
PEP threw a tough question to Kristoffer: If you get someone pregnant, what would you do?
He says: "Kasi kung ide-deny mo, pero alam mo namang sa 'yo. Kung mahal mo yung babae [tapos] iiwanan mo, mas mahihirapan siya. Kung kelan mas kailangan ka niya, dun ka mang-iiwan?
"Ano yung point kung bakit mo tatanggihan? Bakit mo iiwan yung babae mag-isa? Ikaw yung lalaki, ikaw dapat yung matapang na haharap."
Authentic answers for tough questions. These tweens are ready for everything life has to offer.