Sarah Lahbati and Diva Montelaba—the two female finalists of StarStruck V—will be seen in their first full-length television acting stint via GMA-7's Sunday afternoon program, Lovebug.
The two will star opposite their male counterparts Steven Silva and Enzo Pineda in the Camiguin-shot episode titled "Exchange of Hearts."
At last night's press conference held at Congo Grill on Tomas Morato, Quezon City, both Sarah and Diva said they felt proud with the outcome of the series and the fact that they were finally given a show by their home network after months of doing guest appearances.
StarStruck V capped its season last February 21 at the Araneta Coliseum, with Sarah and Steven emerging as winners; Diva, Enzo, and Rocco Nacino were proclaimed runners-up.
GINA ALAJAR AS MENTOR. In the months after the reality-based artista ended, the finalists attended workshops to sharpen their acting chops.
One of those tapped by the network to train its new breed of talents was no less than award-winning actress and director Gina Alajar.
Gina has appeared in nearly 80 films, some of which include: Wanted: Perfect Mother (1970); Diborsyada (1979); Brutal (1980); Salome (1981); Moral (1981); Pieta, Ikalawang Aklat (1984); Kaya Kong Abutin Ang Langit (1984); Sister Stella L (1984); Bulaklak Ng City Jail (1984); Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim (1985); Orapronobis (1989); and Jose Rizal (1998).
"Sobrang galing niya pong coach," Sarah said about Gina in an interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal). "Kasi po lahat ng hindi namin nagagawa before, natutunan namin sa workshop and lahat po 'yon binuhos namin dito sa Lovebug."
Diva dubbed Gina's teachings and lessons as their "foundation" in going into the shoot.
"Kung ano 'yong maibibigay namin ngayon, dahil 'yon sa kanya dahil siya talaga 'yong nag-mold sa amin kung paano maging magaling na aktres. And siya 'yong nagturo sa amin ng mga techniques kung paano i-handle 'yong mga different situations," explained the 17-year-old Cebuana.
WORKING WITH DIREK ANDOY. Directing "Exchange of Hearts" is Andoy Ranay, who recently got embroiled in a controversy after allegedly losing his temper while on the set of the now defunct coming-of-age series First Time.
Hiring the services of Direk Andoy to oversee the StarStruck V graduates says a lot about his ability to motivate and mold raw talents.
The working relationship between Direk Andoy and the four neophytes, however, was far from perfect especially at the start of production.
"Nasigawan kami!" recalled Diva. "Expected naman po namin kasi siguro nag-a-adjust pa lang po kasi kami. And thankful kami kasi sa second and third day, ang dami na naming compliments na na-receive kay Direk and natutuwa na siya sa ginagawa namin."
Direk Andoy's sudden outburst was totally within reason according to Sarah: "Ako naman po, kailangan nating intindihin dahil lahat pagod na, like 'yong staff, cameraman, and especially 'yong direktor. Kasi grabe po 'yong pagod na binubuhos niya sa trabaho. So, kung sumigaw siya, kailangan na lang po naming intindihin."
Sarah continued, "Hindi po siya strict. Mabait po siyang director. Pero pag ganun nga po, umaga na and pagod na tapos pangatlong araw na nung taping, sunod-sunod 'yong ginagawa, siyempre hindi maiiwasang sumigaw."
BENCH UNDERWEAR DEBUT. Both Sarah and Diva were part of the recently-concluded Bench Denim and Underwear Fashion Show held last July 2 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
"Sobrang na-starstruck ako kasi ang daming artista, tapos mga idols ko nakita ko!" gushed Diva.
Sarah shared Diva's excitement in recalling their experience.
"Nung rehearsal pa lang, ang dami-daming artista, taga-iba-ibang channel and na-starstruck ako. Siyempre kasi dati sa Switzerland, sa computer lang ako nanonood ng mga series kung nasaan 'yong mga idols ko. At the same time, na-enjoy ko 'yong experience na 'yon kasi first time ko," Sarah narrated.
The magnitude of the highly-anticipated event was not lost on Sarah. But past modeling experience served her well in the end as it allowed her to counter nerves and stage anxiety.
"'Yong nasa backstage ako, sobrang kinakabahan po ako. Pero nung lumabas na ako, ewan ko, biglang nawala 'yong kaba ko and sobrang nag-enjoy lang akong rumampa. For me, wala naman pong pressure kasi ever since, I really love fashion modeling. Actually, naka-try na akong rumampa sa Fashion Week, so hindi naman first time kong rumampa sa stage," explained Sarah.
The Filipino-Morocco beauty felt bad, however, for people who were not able to enter the coliseum to watch the spectacle.
"Ang dami ngang nag-comment sa Facebook na parang ang daming hindi nakapasok sa Araneta and naglagay sila ng picture nila habang nasa labas. So, parang naawa ako kasi hindi sila nakapasok, and I understand kasi, siyempre, Bench fashion show 'yon and nandun lahat ng artista tapos ang dami ring hindi nakapunta," said Sarah.