Fresh from the success of her portrayal of Desiree Armfeldt in the stage musical A Little Night of Music, Dawn Zulueta is now focusing on promoting the first project of her Kahit Hindi Pasko Foundation.
Founding a charity organization was Dawn's longtime dream, but it was only last year that she finally got around to actually establishing one.
"Ever since kasi I started off in the business, I already made that promise to myself that I would always set aside for charity. Something that I didn't consider my money, I considered it money for giving away, and I've been doing that ever since.
"Until a few years back someone had suggested it to me, 'You keep doing this [charity] anyway, regularly, why don't you just set up a foundation which would really do just that?'
"So I said, 'Well yeah, okay,' so I decided to come up with foundation called Kahit Hindi Pasko," Dawn related to PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an interview last October 27 at Xin Tian Dee restaurant of the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila Hotel in Quezon City.
The foundation is not zeroing in on a particular segment of society, said Dawn: "We try to help where we can: anything, anyone, and everywhere. So we can be for the environment, we can be for children, we can be for women—wherever help is needed.
"It just so happens that right now, our focus is mainly going to be children and women—for their welfare, medical needs, and education."
NATIONAL ARTISTS. Kahit Hindi Pasko's maiden endeavor is a DVD collection of prose and poetry written by some of the country's National Artists, complemented with attractive visuals.
The project, which is titled Tulay, is Dawn's brainchild, together with personal manager Vivian Recio and creative director Ding Fernandez.
It was also Fernandez who suggested incorporating the works of National Artists into the project, like Levi Celerio ("Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit," "Ang Pipit," "Bakya Mo Neneng," "Namamasko")...
Jose Garcia-Villa ("Centepede Sonnet," "First, A Poem Must Be Magical," "I Have Observed Pink Monks Eating Blue Raisins," "My Portrait Is Not My Face," "Observe Me, I Do Not Speak")...
Carlos P. Romulo ("I Am A Filipino"); Nick Joaquin ("The Fish"); and Rio Alma ("Mas Matalino Ang Tubig," "Sari-Saring Bisa," "The Parliament of Giraffes").
Children's storybook author and Palanca Hall-of-Fame awardee Dr. Luis Gatmaitan also contributed a short story especially for the project titled, "Ang Lihim Sa Bodega Ni Paolo."
CELEBRITIES. To make Tulay more marketable, Dawn asked fellow celebrities to participate in the special project by lending their voices to give life to the chosen material.
"Actually, all the names that you see there, it didn't need a lot of convincing. The minute I sent them my letter of invitation, they said yes," Dawn recalled with a smile.
"They're all so kind because they see what we're trying to do, and I said, 'All you need to do is to lend your voice because it's your voice and character that we feel will fit this particular poem or prose.'"
Celebrities who took time out from their busy schedules to join the project were Charice Pempengco, Ariel Rivera, Ai-Ai delas Alas, Ricky Davao, Jericho Rosales, Iza Calzado...
Vhong Navarro, Gary Valenciano, Cherie Gil, Leo Martinez, Lea Salonga, KC Concepcion, Arnel Pineda, and even 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida Jr.
Although the DVD project (which is 80-percent done at press time) is yet to be officially launched, some of Dawn's celebrity friends have already expressed an interest to participate should a second installment come up.
Said Dawn, "Because those who heard about this and said 'Why didn't you include me?,' I already promised them that definitely you're in part two, that's for sure."
STUDENT ANIMATORS. Borrowing literary pieces and rounding up celebrity friends are just part of the pieces needed to complete the endeavor.
Dawn knew by heart that incorporating colorful visuals are as important, perhaps more vital, as having celebrity guests.
"Maybe it's also because of my exposure now as a mother, because now I have two kids, I am exposed to a lot of educational materials that are available to children these days. And I have found out that if you make it visual, it's more interesting for them, especially if the visual is nice.
"So what we thought we'd do, okay, let's hire some animators. And we decided to get students, and if you see even in the artwork, these are all done by the students that we commissioned. Very, very well made... I'm so proud!" exclaimed Dawn, who has two children, Jacobo and Ayisha, with husband and Davao del Norte Representative Anton Lagdameo.
The students commissioned to provide illustrations came from the University of Makati and the University of Santo Tomas.
A GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT. The individuals behind Tulay are hoping to get the product out in time for the Yuletide season. Gathering all the artwork needed and completing the voice recordings is no easy task, of course, considering the schedules of the students and the participating celebrities.
Dawn hopes that Tulay will help the present generation of children learn and appreciate local literature, which, unfortunately, seems to be pushed aside by advances in modern technology and the influx of foreign reading materials.
"We're hoping that by Christmas it will be out kasi nga it's the perfect gift to give your nephew, your niece, and if you have relatives abroad.
"It's like shooting three birds in one stone in this particular project.
"We're giving education a boost, because I really feel that we're kinda losing our culture. With all the media that is surrounding us, our children, they need to be refreshed, and we also need to be refreshed with what we have in our culture and have a new appreciation of it.
"Second, is that with the proceeds of all of these, the sales, we're helping. Because the foundation nga has several that we want, actually there are also other foundations that we're helping...We have mga medical missions that we would like to start, so there's where it's going to go.
"And the third one is, of course, we trying to show values also. We want to promote that: family values."
DAWN ON PROMO BLITZ. Promotional activities being lined up for the DVD project will be no different from what Dawn is used to as a movie star. But her efforts now will be much more special, as these are for a cause.
"Promote it really as if I was promoting a film or a movie," revealed Dawn.
"I have already asked na nga all our friends from the media to help us with it—I want to do interviews both in radio and television and even print."