The Hyatt’s Presidential Suite was draped in the almost blinding radiance of the five o’clock sun. The vast backdrop of a glistening Manila bay appeared through the panoramic glass wall, and a young man who we recognized as Matteo stood up.
The twenty-one-year old flashed his megawatt smile and extended his arm politely for a handshake. Yes, Matteo has all the makings of a matinee idol—the face, charm and undeniable mass appeal. It is no wonder that he has become a promising star of his generation—having appeared in some of ABS-CBN’s most successful projects to date makes it harder to believe that his brush with show business only happened four years ago.
Speaking with an inviting yet ready confidence, Matteo explained how it all began, “I didn’t expect myself to get into showbiz because I was racing karts.” Although he would be too humble to admit, the name Matteo Guidicelli really first resounded as the young boy wonder that broke into the kart-racing arena. In his early years of racing he won two divisions making him “Karter of the Year” in the Philippine Karting Championships in 2005. “I used to fly to Manila from Cebu every weekend for races because all of them were here in Manila or abroad. Eventually, my parents decided to move here, then we started to look for sponsors for racing. That’s when Penshoppe came in. It all started from there. I never thought I was going to be in billboards ever.”
“I did my first photo shoot and I was so nervous that I couldn’t move.” He recalled that pro photographer Xander Angeles had such a hard time with him since he didn’t know what to do and how to pose. “When I work with Xander now, we laugh about it all the time,” he candidly shared.
With billboards lined along highways, Matteo’s career kicked off and caught the attention of manager Jojie Dingcong, who decided to take him on board. At 16, Matteo tried his hand at acting. “At first, my parents didn’t want me to do it and I didn’t even know how to speak Tagalog. But I told them gamely, let’s try it.” Although show business had obviously grown on him, he had to take a short break from it to pursue his studies. He was attending college at Columbia University in Chicago: “My course was supposed to be for four years; I left after two. I realized that I wanted to be in showbiz so I came back home.”
At this point in the interview, Matteo had to step out to try on a pair of jeans. He came back to the room and said, “It’s too tight,” while he checked himself out in the mirror. Then he looked at us and said with a naughty grin, “But I’m going to wear it anyway.”
Energetic and good-natured, he continued where he left off, saying that he got back from the US the same day he had learned of a new project through his Star Magic co-managers, Johnny Manahan and Mariole Alberto, no less. This certain soap happened to be called Agua Bendita, which aired in February 2010 starring Andi Eigenmann.
“Agua Bendita was such a blessing as it put our names out there. Andi and I were both new, the show was number one and it got extended so many times. And because the show was such a hit, more projects came.” Following the success of the show, Matteo recorded a single that was digitally released through starrecords.com and shot a movie called Catch Me I’m In Love with Sarah Geronimo, among others. “I consider myself fortunate to have worked with all these successful leading ladies—Maja Salvador, Andi, Sarah and Kim,” he added.
With the quick spurt of his acting career, Matteo’s parents, Gianluca and Glenna, see to it that they are around to guide and support Matteo as he braves the choppy waters of the industry. When it comes to their son’s love life, though, everyone wants to hear what Mom has to say but her reply was a simple, “Whatever makes you happy…” Then she paused before adding, “but Mama knows best!” she chuckles.
By this time, Matteo’s soon-to-be leading lady had already settled in by the adjacent room. Amidst the live chatter and the music permeating the atmosphere, she sat serenely yet distinctly on the make-up chair, a contrast to Matteo’s more upbeat vibe.
Kim Chiu is a name that warrants no introductions, her endorsements alone make her one of the most visible stars out there. She fascinates many with her shy demeanor and equal parts sexy and mystery. We watched how the make-up transformed Kim’s naturally doll-like face into a screen siren.
It was only five years ago that Kim won over TV viewers’ hearts to clinch the top spot of the 2006 Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition with would be, off-and-on screen romance Gerald Anderson in third place. Today, she is one of the brightest stars in the movie and TV arena, having won the German Moreno Youth Achievement Award at the 57th FAMAS Awards and garnering nominations in various academy awards for her breakout performances in the movie, I Love You Goodbye, and the drama series, Kung Tayo’y Magkakalayo.
Because of her very solid fan base, Kim endorses several brands–from fashion to food, telecom to real estate. In a rare opportunity for a Chowking commercial, Kim was thrilled to be able to share the spotlight with her two sisters, Kam and Twinkle. She credits them as her role models and has picked up Twinkle’s joie de vivre and Kam’s determination along the way. Kim is very close to her family, but especially to her sisters (she also has two brothers), with whom she often goes on shopping sprees whenever they visit from Cebu.
As the proud “ate” and eldest of the brood, Kam shared with us, “In Cebu, Kim’s simple joys were going to mass in Santo Rosario and being “cashier” to her aunts store. She was very shy growing up, we really didn’t expect her to become such a talented actress.” Kim herself said with an almost nostalgic air when asked how she feels about what she has attained: “Until now, it’s something I still find hard to believe. One day, I was just joining a reality TV show and the next thing I know, I am able to do all these other things. Thankfully, my projects have been successful. And I’m still here, and it feels good to be in a place I never would have dreamed to be in.”
But if fame has a price, Kim has paid her full share. Last year proved to be chaotic and painful for her, as the simple Cebuana was caught in a supposed “love triangle” that left the unstoppable Kimerald phenomenon to a screeching halt and Kim crying on national television. Although it was painful for her to watch from the sidelines, protective sister Kam had this to say about her little sister and her love life, “ She is wiser now. She has learned from everything she has been through.”
But Kim seems to be above the speculations and is obviously excited about her upcoming project. The much anticipated Binondo Girl, is a teleserye where Kim likens her character to Disney’s Mulan: “Funny, and family-loving”. She stars with fellow Cebuano Matteo Guidicelli as one of her three leading men (the other being Xian Lim and Jolo Revilla).
It is not the first time, either, that Matteo and Kim will be working together. Matteo’s first acting project, a sitcom called Go Kada Go in 2007, also featured Kim Chiu who was fresh off her Pinoy Big Brother victory. It only took a few more years before they were reunited by a fortuitous turn of events, both of them now fully invested in their acting profession.
Unknown to most hotel guests, two of the most recognizable faces on TV passed through the premises unnoticed, from the Presidential Suite on the twelfth floor towards the plush quarters of the Music Bar downstairs where we would have our shoot. Surrounded by the curious silence of onlookers who were part of Kim’s and Matteo’s entourage, the photo shoot commenced.
Kim’s slender frame transitioned fluidly as she commanded emotions and movement—be it a charming smile, a sharp gaze, or playful girlishness. She made it all look so easy as members of the crew watched intently.
When asked about co-star Matteo, Kim said, “These last few days of the
workshops were fun. Because he’s also from Cebu, we naturally talk in
Cebuano, we joke in Cebuano. Some things are just funnier in your native tongue.” And Matteo’s take on Kim? “When I first met her, I saw this skinny, talkative and funny Chinese girl but look at her now. She’s very beautiful and has grown up a lot.”
Of their hometown, the young pop princess misses many things. “Of course there are my friends and former classmates. And then there’s the food—Larsian’s barbeque, Cebu lechon, mangoes, rosquillos, and of course her grandma’s Lumpia Chai home-cooked, the chinese way. Kim is very close to her grandma and until now, Kim stays with her in their home when she visits.
Both agree that leading their independent lifestyle in Manila differs greatly from the laidback pace of Cebu. As for Matteo, he said, “Whenever I’m in Cebu I make it a point to see my friends and of course, family.”
He continued to compare his new base and his hometown: “When I’m in Manila, I’m working, and running everywhere, then there’s the traffic. But when I’m in Cebu I can relax. Sometimes I don’t even have to know what time it is and just go to the beach. Cebu is really like that for me.”
Nestled on a love seat, Kim showed the first sign of exhaustion, and the more playful yet wholesome Matteo got her guard down when he grazed her face with his hand and made her laugh at a joke that only they could hear. Click, went lensman Paolo Pineda’s camera. We knew we had it. With this sort of unrehearsed chemistry, it is only a matter of time before Binondo Girl spells another prime time TV hit with both stars shining even brighter.
sittings editor KATSY BORROMEO art styling MIKEY SANCHEZ fashion assistants KARLA YNZON, ALYANNA GERONA, ANDRE MARCHADESCH hair and make-up HAIDEE FERNANDEZ photography PAOLO PINEDA locale THE MUSIC BAR OF THE HYATT HOTEL AND CASINO