Columnist Janet Nepales with author Ruben V. Nepales and actor Clifford Banagale
(Photo by Hydee Ursolino-Abrahan)

LOS ANGELES--When my husband, Ruben V. Nepales, launched his first book, My Filipino Connection: The Philippines in Hollywood, at Carla’s Café at the CBS Studios in Studio City recently, we had people coming from various parts of the world to celebrate with us.

Ploning director Dante “Ga” Garcia flew in from the Philippines. Mike Malicsi, director of the University of Santo Tomas Office for Alumni Relations, and Pilar Romero, assistant to the University of Santo Tomas rector, also came straight from Manila to attend the event.

Acclaimed Tina Turner tribute artist Luisa Mendez-Marshall, who is featured in the book and who was also Ruben’s former coursemate at the University of Santo Tomas--they both took up Communication Arts--came from Vancouver, Canada, with her husband Steve.

The book, which is a collection of mostly published works that reflects Ruben’s advocacy to spotlight talents of Filipino heritage making it in world entertainment, includes articles on Vanessa Hudgens; Darren Criss; Oscar nominees Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Matthew Libatique (cinematographer, Black Swan); acclaimed director Ramona Diaz; Charice; animators, including “Pixnoys” (Filipinos who work at Pixar) Ronnie del Carmen, who is co-directing his first Pixar film, Ricky Nierva, and Gini Cruz Santos; DreamWorks’s Louie del Carmen; Alec Mapa; Anna Maria Perez de Tagle; Charmaine Clamor; Bernardo Bernardo; Bessie Badilla; Luisa Mendez-Marshall; John Butiu; the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO); and many more.

Vanessa Hudgens could not come because of a previous commitment, but her mother, Gina Guangco Hudgens, came in her stead. Gina was touched and started to cry when writer Prosy Delacruz, in her closing speech, read a passage from Ruben’s book revealing that Vanessa appreciated everything her mother did for her.

Quoting the article, Prosy read, “My mom sometimes comes over and stocks my fridge with food, so I’m fine in that department. My parents live only a few miles away. They know this is something that I want. My dad makes sure my home is secure. I know it’s hard for them, but they’ve taken it quite well.”

Chucky Klapow’s mom, Sylvia Klapow, also came. Chucky is Michael Jackson’s dancer-choreographer.


Prosy Dela Cruz, Rocio Nuyda, Ruben, and Janet

(Photo courtesy of Janet R. Nepales)

Actor-comedian Bernardo Bernardo brought the house down with his funny antics and barbs. Jazzipino singer Charmaine Clamor performed two numbers for the guests--“Dahil Sa Iyo” and the Pangasinense song “Malinac Lay Labi,” in honor of Ruben’s roots in Calasiao, Pangasinan, where he was born.

The Filipino American Symphony Orchestra quartet, led by musical director and conductor Bob Shroder and including Angelito Molina, Cecil Cruz, and Kendro Calika, performed two Filipino classics starting with “Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak,” which Bob dedicated to me.

Then Luisa Mendez-Marshall, dressed as Tina Turner complete with a wig and a glittery costume, did two Tina favorites that brought the house down. She even got Ruben and me to dance.

Some of the guests who were at the Manila launch and were present again in the Los Angeles launch included fashion designer Oliver Tolentino and his business partner Andrew Caruthers, filmmakers RD Alba and Philip Anthony, and photographer Andy Tecson.

Other celebrities during the event included animator John Butiu, who is also featured in the book; fashion designer Alan del Rosario; TV host and producer of Kababayan LA Jannelle So; Hollywood makeup artist Maxi; director Lea Dizon and producer Matthew Breault; actors Rodney To, Clifford Banagale, Ali Sotto, Mae Flores, Sean Saba, and Christian Moralde; Emmy Award-winning TV producer Marc Anthony Nicholas of The Tyra Banks Show; award-winning theater director Jon Lawrence Rivera; and award-winning concert producer Vic Perez.

Entertainment executives like Fritz Friedman, the senior Vice President for Worldwide Publicity of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Peter McHugh, one of Hollywood’s top talent agents, also came.

Celebrity photographers Sthanlee B. Mirador and Hydee Ursolino-Abrahan, as well as Peter Gonzaga and Chris Trondsen of Pacific Rim Photo Press, were there to show their support as well.

Mario Amaya, a Hollywood Foreign Press member and journalist from Colombia, also came to the launch. Others who came included publicist Winston Emano and Search to Involve Pilipino Americans Executive Director Joel Jacinto.

The event was organized by impresario Ted Benito, community leader Rocio Nuyda, and writer Prosy dela Cruz. It was sponsored by (represented by Ester Chavez) and Asian Journal.

Kudos also to Elaine Quadra for the lovely floral arrangements and VuQo’s Giselle Arroyo for the specialty drinks.

From LA, we are flying to New York, where we will launch the book on May 30, 6:00 PM, at the Philippine Center on 556 Fifth Avenue. Bessie Badilla and Elton Lugay will be hosting the event. It will be sponsored by The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York with the cooperation of the Philippine Consulate.

After New York, catch us in San Francisco on June 29 at the local chapter of the Philippine Consulate.

Hope to see you there!

E-mail the writer at for your comments or questions.

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