THEY’RE considered superstars-in-waiting—showbiz personalities who have achieved milestones in their respective careers this past year and are expected to reach greater heights in the coming year. Here are 12 promising stars whom we expect to shine brightest in 2009 and land major roles, juicy entertainment projects, public accolade and industry approbation in the coming months. 1. Aljur Abrenica Aljur Abrenica, 18, rose to prominence as the first “Ultimate Hunk” of the reality-based talent search “StarStruck” in 2006. He continued to draw attention with appearances in the teen drama “Boys Nxt Door” and regular performances in the Sunday noontime show “SOP.” His first major television role came in 2007 when GMA-7 tapped him to play the “Red Zaido” and Cervano, one of the three lead characters in the primetime fantasy series “Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan” opposite Dennis Trillo and the late Marky Cielo. His inclusion in the top rating “Dyesebel” further exposed him to a broader audience. Aljur also had roles in successful box office hits “I.T.A.L.Y.” and “Loving You.” Presently, he is part of the ensemble cast of the top rating fantasy series “Luna Mystika” as the tikbalang Libado. Though Aljur is currently cast in mere supporting roles, a major lead role in a movie or television show could most certainly come next year. 2. Jon Avila Who’s that guy on the billboard? Female motorists can’t help but notice his eye-catching, libido-pushing images along the Metro’s major thoroughfares. But this attention getter did not stop there. Like Sam Milby before him, this professional model made the big plunge into show business when he made the cut as a housemate in “Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2.” The Irish Filipino Jon Avila, 21, who was born and raised in the United Kingdom, is now a household name. Dubbed the “English Outcast,” Jon was unceremoniously evicted from the reality-based TV show because of a controversy, but that did not discourage him from pursuing an acting career. ABS-CBN picked Jon to play a fumbling superhero in the Mars Ravelo classic “Kapitan Boom” in the network’s “Komiks” anthology this year. The show generated a big following in its Saturday airing, as viewers started getting enamored with Jon’s boyish charms. He did not disappoint them. Apart from television appearances in “ASAP 08” as part of the Cover Boys and the dance program “Shall We Dance” on TV5, this young talent is embarking on a movie career, starting with the indie film “Nars” and the Star Cinema movie “When Love Begins.” Jon is filming his first major role opposite Rufa Mae Quinto in “Civil Status: Single,” a comedy scheduled for an early 2009 release. 3. Valerie Concepcion Call it a blessing in disguise, but Valerie Concepcion’s abrupt exit from showbiz in 2004 due to her pregnancy worked wonders for her. It showed that life’s challenges can make one stronger, wiser, and in Valerie’s case, a topnotch actress-TV host. When Valerie transferred to ABS-CBN after a respectable career in GMA-7 (which started with the 2002 youth-oriented series “Click” and ended with the 2007 fantasy series “Fantastic Man”), the spotlight focused on another aspect of her talent: TV hosting. Valerie received the 2008 PMPC Star Award for Best Female Variety Show Host for her efforts in the noontime show “Wowowee.” That continuing stint provided her the needed exposure for subsequent projects, including product endorsements and guestings in the network’s youth oriented shows and drama anthologies. Valerie is now a regular in ABS-CBN’s “Banana Split,” further showcasing her acting talent, particularly in comedy. Valerie has also crossed over to the movies with a role that departs from her usual girl-next-door portrayals. She stars in Octo Arts Films’ sex comedy “One Night Only,” opposite Diana Zubiri, Katrina Halili, Jennylyn Mercado and Alessandra de Rossi. Next year is expected to be a banner one for Valerie, who will play the role Mexican singer-actress Thalia made popular in the 1990s—Maria Mercedes, set to become an ABS-CBN primetime offering. 4. Jake Cuenca Considered one of the top hunks of ABS-CBN, Jake Cuenca, 21, was actually a former Kapuso and graduate of GMA-7’s teen drama “Click” in 2003. Jake indeed made such a big impact in his “Click” stint that GMA-7 herded him into their major television offerings. He landed plum roles in “Hanggang Kailan,” “Forever In My Heart,” “Encantadia,” and the Angel Locsin-starrer “Majika.” Jake’s 2006 transfer to the Kapamilya network proved to be a good decision. Not only did he bag juicy TV roles, he also got a sizeable movie deal with Star Cinema for several projects. From late 2006 to 2007, Jake appeared in 14 ABS-CBN shows, from the fantasy series “Komiks Presents: Si Pedro Penduko at ang mga Engkanto” to the superhero classic “Mars Ravelo’s Lastikman.” Jake grabbed his biggest role in the remake earlier this year of the Bernard Bonnin 1960s starrer “Palos,” in which he shared lead credits with Cesar Montano. But the guy got more attention on the sidelines when he made tabloid headlines bannering his romance and eventual breakup with fellow ABS-CBN star Roxanne Guinoo. He also courted controversy when he got linked to another Kapamilya star, Bea Alonzo, which triggered Roxanne’s reported confrontation with Bea during a show abroad. Amid all the talk, Jake is making heads turn as part of the ASAP Cover Boys, a group in the tradition of the Hunks that propelled the careers of Piolo Pascual, Diether Ocampo, Jericho Rosales, Bernard Palanca and Carlos Agassi. This is definitely a sign of more good things to come for this good-looking and sexy actor. 5. Will Devaughn Will Devaughn, 25, captured the limelight immediately after landing fourth place in the “Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2” reality TV show. His stunning Filipino-African-American-German looks made him a natural choice for many product endorsements. Will’s “Pinoy Big Brother” victory endeared him to a growing number of fans and led to appearances in ABS-CBN dramas such as “Love Spell” with fellow PBB alumna and Second Big Placer Rizza Santos, and “Komiks Presents: Da Adventures of Pedro Penduko.” Will is also be part of the ensemble cast of the back-to-back Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Desperadas.” 2009 is definitely expected to be Will’s banner year with his involvement in two huge ABS-CBN projects—two comeback shows for two of the country’s most acclaimed and revered actors. Will is included in Judy Ann Santos’ upcoming ABS-CBN teleserye, “Humingi Ako Sa Langit" and is part of Comedy King Dolphy’s most-awaited first teleserye, “Utoy.” This could be his biggest break yet. 6. Robi Domingo Ateneo student Robi Domingo, 18, made his mark as the Second Big Winner of the “Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition Plus” series this year. Since his big finish in ABS-CBN’s talent launchpad that started the careers of Sam Milby, Gerald Anderson and Kim Chiu, Robi has been aspiring to make it big in the biz without abandoning his studies. He had appeared in a number of ABS-CBN youth-oriented shows, including “Your Song” and “Love Spell,” but the acting bug has yet to bite, it seems. Joining the video jock search in ABS-CBN’s music channel Myx proved to be his biggest breakthrough this year, which was enough to convince voters in the Philippine Movie Press Club to name him as this year’s Star Awardee for Best New Male TV Personality. The award will surely open doors for this actor-TV host who has proved himself a role model among young fans. A comparison with Rico Yan further motivated him to pursue the late actor’s accomplishments in the biz. Continuing his impressive Myx VJ stint, Robi appears headed for still grander things in 2009. A major TV or movie role seems to be within reach. 7. Sheena Halili When people first saw Sheena Halili, they never thought she would have reached this far in the biz. An early dropout in the initial 2003 “StarStruck” search, Sheena may have had second thoughts about joining the reality-based talent search. Although she signed a GMA-7 contract right after the show ended as one of the StarStruck Avengers, the group of contestants who failed to reach the competition’s Final Four, Sheena was not able to sustain the popularity she gained from the contest. This led to her exit from the limelight when her contract expired. But when a casting call came for the Philippine adaptation of the Mexican series “MariMar,” Sheena, now 21, grabbed the opportunity and landed the supporting role of Monica, the sprightly best friend and collaborator of Katrina Halili’s character Angelica. That became her biggest break. As “MariMar” became the most watched television show in the Philippines during its six-month run and made its lead stars Marian Rivera, Dingdong Dantes and Katrina the biggest names in showbiz, Sheena was also rewarded with a revitalized acting career. After “MariMar,” Sheena’s bubbly nature again filled the airwaves as one of the main antagonists in the Regine Velasquez-starrer “Ako si Kim Samsoon.” She is also cast in the successful worldwide telenovela franchise “La Lola,” and appears as one of the on location hosts of the Manny Pacquiao show “Pinoy Records.” 2009 will be no different from Sheena’s successful 2008 run as GMA-7 continues to line up projects for this young actress, who is enjoying her second wind. 8. Karylle Who would have expected that a controversial break-up with her boyfriend of three years would eventually lead to this singer’s radical bid for showbiz superstardom? Now 27, Karylle is enjoying her time as a new talent of ABS-CBN and artist of EMI Music after months of despair and personal anguish. Not to simplify what she went through, but Karylle emerged a winner from it all. The controversy and the media circus that played on her personal life indeed made her stronger and more driven as an artist and person. Karylle has opted for a clean slate since her split from Dingdong—a new management outfit, record label, film studio and television network. Who knows? A shift in image as well, as showbiz talks speculate on a possible cover for a popular men’s magazine. Karylle is appearing in “ASAP ’08” after several years of performing in rival “SOP.” Her newly signed ABS-CBN contract shows that she is set to appear in several Kapamilya shows and Star Cinema films. A banner year in 2009? That seems to be an understatement, what with several potential top raters lined up for Karylle. Reports have it that this singer is being cast in three major ABS-CBN projects, including a remake of the Susan Roces film “Maruja,” and two hit Koreanovela adaptations, “Lovers in Paris” and “Princess Hours.” 9. Lovi Poe Her famous family name may have helped a bit, but definitely, Lovi Poe, 19, is a class on her own. Lovi’s string of successes on television didn’t come overnight. Initially billed as a singer, Lovi proved that striking good looks are always an asset that television show producers can’t just ignore. As a 17-year-old Colegio de San Agustin junior, this young star started her showbiz career opposite GMA-7’s returning male lead Cogie Domingo in the 2006 “Love to Love: Jazz Got Lucky.” After her initial stint, Lovi embarked on the turning point in her showbiz career, portraying Kristal in the highest rating TV show in 2007, “Bakekang.” As televiewers adored her pretty face and enthralling voice, Regal Films also took notice of her talent, casting her in 2007’s “Shake Rattle and Roll 9,” a performance that earned her a Star Award for Best New Movie Actress from the Philippine Movie Press Club. She also became a hot subject on showbiz talk shows after Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s son Jolo openly admitted that he was courting her. Though both deny any serious involvement, partly because of an alleged rift between Jolo and Lovi’s mom Rowena Moran, the young stars used the hype to the hilt with their appearance as a couple in the sine-novela “Kaputol ng Isang Awit” with Glaiza de Castro and the late Marky Cielo. Lovi also juggles her acting career with her recording duties under Sony BMG, which released her second album, “Bloom” this year, a follow-up of her “Best of My Heart” CD that turned gold in 2006. She also held her first major concert, “Bloom,” at the Music Museum last October. Lovi is currently involved with the GMA-7 adaptation of Latin American telenovela craze “La Lola.” With all these projects under her belt, Lovi seems all set for a more fruitful year ahead. 10. Cristine Reyes Like her sister Ara Mina who accomplished a lot in the last decade, Cristine Reyes, 19, is fast becoming tinseltown’s next vixen. Not only is this “StarStruck” alumna poised to achieve stellar status with her new, daring persona, she’ll do anything to achieve it, even leave the network that discovered and nurtured her career from Day One. But Cristine has no regrets. She considers ABS-CBN more than accommodating for giving her a plum role in the Jericho Rosales-Carmen Soo drama “Kahit Isang Saglit,” a portrayal that even impressed multi-awarded actor Christopher de Leon. The network then cast her in the role of her dreams—in “Eva Fonda, 16” a sexy role popularized by Alma Moreno. Though controversial, as the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board had reprimanded ABS-CBN for some scenes, the series is bound to get televiewers to notice Cristine’s acting talent and spellbinding appeal. Indeed, 2009 will prove to be another big year for Cristine as she makes TV screens sizzle with an adaptation of Vilma Santos’ 1970s classic “Burlesk Queen.” 11. Rhian Ramos The bubbly and perky teen star recently got her biggest break in the popular guy-turned-girl Latin American franchise “La Lola,” currently airing weekdays on primetime TV. Rhian’s breakthrough performance had led to top ratings for the show in its initial weeks. But Rhian Ramos, 18, did not come from nowhere. After appearing in TV commercials, Rhian was cast in the top rating 2006 fantasy series “Mars Ravelo’s Captain Barbell,” landing a supporting role to Richard Gutierrez that immediately made an impact on televiewers. Noticing this, the GMA 7 bigwigs included her in another Richard Gutierrez project, “Lupin,” playing the prominent Avril. As her celebrity flourished on and off cam, Rhian became a regular fixture in showbiz talk shows as controversies surfaced on alleged altercations with a fellow actress, some revealing Internet photos and hate blog entries. But these have not dampened Rhian’s young spirit as she became a favorite in most Kapuso shows, including the sine-novela “My Only Love,” “Pinoy Idol Extra,” and “Codename: Asero,” where she made a brief appearance with Richard. Apart from her television projects, Rhian also appeared in several GMA Films projects, such as “The Promise,” “Ouija,” “I.T.A.L.Y.,” and “My Monster Mom,” as the young Annabelle Rama. Her “La Lola” success would definitely lead to bigger things. A hardworker, Rhian is dead serious about staying in the industry for a long long time. 12. JC de Vera JC de Vera, 22, has become the leading male actor of choice in GMA-7 dramas. He is in fact described as the network’s “Drama Prince” after good ratings from his performances in the sine-novelas “Pati Ba Pintig ng Puso,” “Pasan Ko Ang Daigdig,” and “Babangon Ako’t Dudurugin Kita”—opposite his erstwhile screen partner Yasmien Kurdi. JC is also a 2004 “Click” graduate, who impressed his directors with deep and sensitive acting. He subsequently appeared on top rating GMA 7 shows “Sugo” and “Captain Barbell,” and the “Now and Forever” series where he was paired with the industry’s top actors. But his recent dedicated anthology “Obra Presents JC De Vera” has proven that he can now be counted among the country’s top young actors. As the male lead in the Latin American telenovela franchise “La Lola” and with his memorable performances in the movies “My Bestfriend’s Girlfriend,” “My Monster Mom,” “Loving You,” and the Metro Manila Film Festival entry, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll X,” and with his upcoming film “Sundo,” one can say for sure that JC has arrived and will continue to make his mark in the industry. (Published in the 28 Dec 2008 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine)
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A looming announcement that may not happen at all. First of all, a confirmation. Sources all close to the couple confirmed that Dingdong Dantes and Karylle have indeed split. Actually, for them, it's old news. They have long separated, they say. The reason? Well, that's where they all provide conflicting claims, from both growing distant from each other to the never-ending rumors of a love triangle with Marian Rivera. Dingdong was all over the news the past week saying that he and Karylle will end all speculation and reveal the truth by way of a media interview. But it seems that won't happen as Karylle is reportedly now making herself scarce, even to Dingdong, as the truth about their relationship is slowly being leaked outside of their circle. "I'm still waiting for her," Dingdong responded to our SMS last Friday. Another source was quite emotional: "Zsa Zsa (Padilla) is upset." This source even went as far as claiming that Karylle's mother was arranging for her daughter's transfer to ABS-CBN after she found out that GMA-7 did not intend to stop the circus, all adding fire to the controversy that involves its current top stars, who are allegedly using her daughter to keep them prominent in sleazy entertainment press write-ups. But the frenzy may not even benefit both Dingdong and Marian. It will place Dingdong in a bad light because it would seem that he "dumped" Karylle for his once slumping "career" that found new life in an on-screen partnership with Marian, who whether she likes it or not, will be viewed as the villain, the "third party" in the off-screen troubled romance, even if she dedicates a two-hour special on a Sunday night just denying she had anything to do with the supposed separation. Maybe this is the reason for the extended silence on the matter. Maybe both sides are thinking it over. Maybe the network is doing some serious crisis management. But whatever's the score, Dingdong and Karylle should end this once and for all. And they should be honest and direct about it. As the controversy grows, who knows who else might get hurt.