by: Rachelle Siazon
ABS-CBN Corporate Communications Head Bong Osorio confirmed that the weekly variety show Sarah G Live will air its final episode on Sunday, February 10. As it is, word got out recently that two weekend shows of the Kapamilya network will bid goodbye anytime soon. 
Fans of Popstar Princess Sarah Geronimo need not worry though as she will be headlining the much-awaited reality talent show The Voice of The Philippines as one of the judges/mentors. It was earlier reported that Toni Gonza will be hosting the said singing competition. 
Other projects that await Sarah this year include her upcoming film It Takes A Man and A Woman, a drama anthology and a world tour.
The official statement from ABS-CBN Corporate Communications is as follows: “SARAH G Live ends on top of its game with its last episode airing on Sunday, 10 February 2013. After a year of bringing world class performances to Filipino viewers here in the country and in TFC markets around the world, Sarah Geronimo moves on to fulfill other commitments. The pop star, who recently renewed her contract with ABS-CBN, will sit as one of the judges of The Voice of the Philippines, and will soon have her own drama anthology. Sarah is also busy filming her upcoming Star Cinema movie with John Lloyd Cruz, and is set to go on a Sarah G concert worldwide.”

BEIJING (AFP) - China's hugely popular Lunar New Year television galas aim to woo even more viewers this year with foreign megastars including Celine Dion and "Gangnam Style" pop sensation Psy, state media said Thursday.

Watching the China Central Television (CCTV) variety show has become a tradition for families gathering on New Year's Eve and it is set to draw a billion viewers this year, according to the China Daily.

The show, which will air on Saturday for more than four hours on multiple channels, typically features a range of performances ranging from comedy sketches to folk songs to ballet dances.

For 24 years it featured Peng Liyuan, a soprano who holds the rank of army general and is married to the Communist Party's new leader Xi Jinping, but she retired from the show shortly after her husband joined the Politburo in 2007.

This year it will see Dion performing her global hit "My Heart Will Go On," from the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, which became extremely popular in China. She will also sing in a duet in Chinese, the China Daily reported.

The CCTV programme faces growing competition from local stations.

Psy, the South Korean performer who shot to global fame with his "Gangnam Style" music video last year, will do his dance on Shanghai-based Dragon TV, the Global Times said.

The Global Times praised producers' efforts to create the best shows possible but also questioned the reliance on international stars, especially if they required hefty fees.

"While some netizens are excited about such famous foreign figures coming to China, others wonder why the Spring Festival galas in China today have to depend on big-name foreign stars," it said.

The CCTV gala has previously featured foreigners such as Mark "Da Shan" Roswell, a Canadian who became well known in China for his fluent Mandarin, but it lacked the worldwide celebrity of this year's foreign lineup.

By Reyma Buan-Deveza,

Actor Coco Martin answers questions from the media during the press conference of Max's Restaurant on Tuesday. Photo by Nimfa Chua for

MANILA, Philippines - Before becoming one of the country's biggest stars, Coco Martin worked as a waiter in a homegrown restaurant chain.

Debunking notions by many that being a waiter does not require a lot of thinking and hard work, Martin stressed that it was his job at Max's restaurant that helped bring him to where he is today.

"Minsan, uuwi ako ng bahay, 'di ko na makayang maligo or maglinis ng katawan. Minsan, 'di ko na nahuhubad ang uniform ko dahil sa sobrang pagod," the prized actor said of his experience in the service industry.

"Kung baga ang waiter ay hindi siya madaling trabaho. Madali lang tignan pero kapag tinrabaho mo siya, 'yung maghapon kang nagbubuhat ng mabigat," he added.

The 'calling card' moment

It was in Max's where Martin was first tapped to try show business. In 1999, while on duty, he was spotted by an assistant of Johnny Manahan, an executive of ABS-CBN's talent management arm Star Magic.

His first test? To smile.

"Noong time na nagtatrabaho ako sa Max's, one time mayroon akong kinukunan ng order. Isang pamilya. Sabi ng lalaki, 'smile ka nga.' Natawa naman ako, bakit ako pinapa-smile, unang-una lalaki pa siya," said Martin, who was puzzled over the idea of a straight man wanting to see his pearly whites.

"Natawa ako at maya-maya nag-take ako ng order, pumasok sa kitchen, at binigay ko na 'yung order. Maya-maya, noong sine-serve ko na 'yung order, binigyan ako ng calling card. Sinabi niya, 'assistant director ako from ABS-CBN, assistant ako ni Johnny Manahan.' Si Rene dela Cruz, AD ni Mr. Johnny Manahan.

"Tapos sabi niya, 'mamayang gabi kapag interesado kang mag-artista, tawagan mo ako.' So kinuha ko na 'yung card, pumunta ako sa kitchen. Sabi ko sa mga kaibigan ko, 'oy, may nagbigay sa akin ng calling card, taga ABS-CBN.' Sabi sa akin, 'bakit hindi mo tawagan?'"

The auditions

The moment he got home, Martin, who was a working student at the time, called the number on the calling card. He was asked to go to ABS-CBN the next day.

"Kahit nahihiya ako, tinawagan ko 'yung nasa calling card. Sabi ko 'ako po 'yung binigyan niyo ng calling card sa restaurant.' Sabi niya, 'kung willing ka, pumunta ka bukas sa harap ng ABS-CBN.' So kinabukasan, pumunta ako sa ABS-CBN tapos pinakilala niya ako kay Johnny Manahan. Tapos sabi niya (Manahan), 'sige, pag-audition-in mo," he shared.

Even if he did not know how to sing or dance, Martin still tried his best, saying that he will do everything to earn extra money for himself and his grandmother, who was paying for his education.

"That time, wala pa akong talent, hindi ako marunong sumayaw at kumanta. Akala ko naman noong kinukuha na ako ay pasok na ako at magiging artista na ako, paga-audition-in pa pala ako. Eh di pumila ako, nag-audition ako. Pinakanta ako, kanta ako kahit 'di ako marunong kumanta. Pinasayaw ko, sayaw ako. Ako kasi basta babayaran ako, bakit hindi? Basta alam kong pagkakakitaan, go lang ako.

"Edi ginawa ko, kung matatanggap ako o hindi, okay lang, at least sinubukan ko. Tapos ilang audition 'yun, nakalusot ako nang nakalusot, hindi ko in-expect na mapipili ako ni Mr. M. Hanggang sa pumili na siya ng 10, nakapasok pa rin ako."

Change in priorities

Martin's success at the ABS-CBN auditions came at the expense of his performance as a waiter. His absence at work while trying his luck as an actor eventually got him fired -- something that he is not proud of.

The Kapamilya star also shared that his grades suffered because he neglected his studies.

"Habang nagwo-workshop na kami, hindi ako nakapasok sa school at sa trabaho ko kasi Monday to Saturday ang workshop kasi malapit na kaming i-launch [as Star Magic talents]. Tapos siyempre babagsak na ako sa school, 'di na ako nakakapasok sa work, natanggal ako sa Max's. Hindi na ako nakakapasok ng ilang days," he said.

It was during this time that Martin's grandmother interfered and advised him to finish his studies first before venturing into showbiz.

"Sabi ko sa lola ko, 'La, mag-aartista ba ako o mag-aaral ako?' Sabi ng lola ko, 'tapusin mo muna ang pag-aaral mo kasi kapag nakahawak ka na ng pera, tatamarin ka nang mag-aral. Tapusin mo ang pag-aaral mo at pagkatapos noon, gawin mo kung ano ang gusto mong gawin sa buhay mo.'"

And that is exactly what Martin did.


With no job as a waiter to return to, Martin focused all of his energies to studying. He was not launched as a Star Magic talent.

His hard work paid off. After graduating from college, Martin again tried his luck in show business, and had several television appearances.

But it was when he ventured into indie films that Martin really began to shine as an actor.

And the rest is history. He starred in several hit TV shows on ABS-CBN, from "Tayong Dalawa" and "Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin" to "Walang Hanggan", which brought him to leading man status.

Currently, Martin is gearing up for his newest project, a titular role in the upcoming ABS-CBN superhero series "Juan dela Cruz".

While he enjoys his work as an actor, Martin stressed that he is doing this primarily to help his grandmother.

"Ako kasi bilang tao, practical ako, kung saan may trabaho at kung saan ako kikita, at kahit paano ay makatulong kasi lola ko lang ang nagpaaral sa akin. Siyempre, nahihiya naman ako na puro siya ang nagbibigay sa akin," he said.

Return to roots

With several acting awards and top-rating shows under his belt, it is safe to say that Martin is one of the Philippines' most prominent showbiz personalities.

And in a surprising twist, Martin finds his way back to Max's, where all of this began. Not as a waiter, but as a celebrity endorser.

"Sa pag-aartista ko ay naging bahagi ang Max's kasi nagkaroon ng opening. At saka nagkaroon ako ng awareness, 'yung nakikita mo na ganito pala ang pagdadaanan ko. Sabi ko nga, hindi ka naman darating sa dulo kung wala kang maraming sangang pagdadaanan. Kung baga sa Max's, isa kang sanga kung bakit ako namulat o nagkaroon ng interest sa pagpasok ko sa mundong ito sa showbiz," he said.

And now that he is finally endorsing a restaurant, Martin said he is also planning to put up his own food business. Again, he has his family's future in mind.

"Ang trabaho ko bilang artista, tatanda ako at baka balang araw hindi na ako bibigyan ng chance ng tao," he admitted. "Siyempre, iisipin ko nandito ako para sa pamilya ko at sa future ko, so bakit hindi na lang ako pumasok sa business? Dahil sa HRM graduate ako, gusto kong pumasok sa negosyo na alam ko. At siyempre, ang unang-unang maiisip ko ay restaurant."

With his earnings and connections, Martin can easily put up a posh restaurant. But the actor remains grounded and prefers to reach out to the masses through a simple hole-in-the-wall joint.

"Ako kahit lugawan o paresan, okay na ako. Kasi ayaw kong magtayo ng isang malaking negosyo na napakaganda pero wala namang kumakain. Much better sa akin na mayroon akong gotohan o mamihan na punung-puno ng driver o ordinaryong tao. Para sa akin, napakasarap na pakiramdam 'yon," he ended.


The presence of strong political families highlight how Filipinos put a premium on the basic unit of society. Kicking off “Pagbabago 2013,” its most comprehensive coverage of the elections to-date, NEWS5 takes a closer look at key families in positions of power on Balwarte. The documentary show will premiere on February 3 on Aksyon TV International.



Led by its chief Luchi Cruz-Valdes, NEWS5’s experienced pool of anchors profile known Filipino political personalities and discover how even the simplest towns become bulwarks in the race for power and position. For its pilot episode, Valdes will assess Rectos’ reach in Batangas where incumbent governor Vilma Santos-Recto is seeking re-election. The Rectos are joined by the Sanchezes and Levistes, who also have a long history of public service in the province.


In the coming weeks, NEWS5 anchors will document other political heavyweights in the Philippines. Balwarte airs weekly on Sundays beginning February 3 on Aksyon TV International.


Pilipinas Global Network Limited (PGNL) is a joint venture between Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the largest and leading telecommunications company in the Philippines, and ABC Development Corporation ("ABC5"), the operator of TV5, the fastest growing terrestrial channel in the Philippines. It acts as the sole and exclusive distributor and licensee of the programs, shows, films and channels of TV5.  It distributes these media content via syndication and via its international linear channels, namely: Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International.


- END -



by Harumi Ozawa


TOKYO (AFP) - Fans leapt to the defence of a Japanese starlet on Friday after she shaved her head and issued a tearful YouTube apology in an act of "disgusting" penance for a night with a man.

Pictures of the roughly-shorn head of Minami Minegishi, 20, were emblazoned on national newspapers and Japan's Twitter scene was abuzz over news that the pop princess from cash-generating juggernaut AKB48 had broken the band's cardinal rule: No Dating.


A sobbing Minegishi told fans she had decided to shave her head in contrition after a popular weekly magazine published claims of a night of passion with a 19-year-old boy band member.

"I don't believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don't want to quit AKB48," she says in the video, which had been viewed on YouTube more than three million times.

Minegishi, who had long, silky hair at the time, was snapped leaving the apartment of Alan Shirahama, a dancer in an off-shoot of the popular boy band Exile.

Tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshun published its article Thursday, and hours later Minegishi was pleading to be allowed to remain with AKB48, one of the world's most successful acts by revenue.

The tryst was "thoughtless and immature", she told fans.

"If it is possible, I wish from the bottom of my heart to stay in the band. Everything I did is entirely my fault, I am so sorry."

AKB48, a 90-strong pool of girls in their teens and early 20s, is a money-printing machine that makes much of the accessibility -- and the implied availability -- of its idols.

Fans have frequent opportunities to meet their favourites, who are rotated in and out of the public eye, according to popularity.

In return for their chance to grace television screens, subway adverts and the covers of Japan's countless celebrity magazines, members of the collective must adhere to strict rules of behaviour.

They are allowed to have "one-sided romantic feelings" for a boy but can never progress beyond hinting at their crush -- and must never disabuse their legions of male fans that they might one day stand a chance with their fantasy woman.

AKB48's management office said Minegishi will be demoted to a trainee team as punishment "for causing a nuisance to the fans", with the demotion effective from Friday.

But many of those fans took to Twitter to defend the star, saying there was nothing wrong with an adult woman leading a "normal life".

Author and critic Hiroki Azuma said it was "disgusting" that Minegishi had been pressured to the extent where she had to resort to medieval means to make amends for a perfectly normal romance.

User @Shige_Onz demanded to know: "What's the point of this public execution show? It's like something from the war or a totalitarian state."

In Japan, shaving one's head has long been a public display of contrition, although is usually only done by men or boys.

In June last year, another AKB48 member, Rino Sashihara, 20, made a pained apology after a magazine article revealed her free-wheeling history with a boy. She was demoted to a regional sub-group as a punishment.

While much is made of their supposed innocence, the band is heavily marketed on its sex appeal, with skimpy outfits and coquettish smiles the order of the day.

A television commercial in which the girls seductively passed candy from mouth to mouth was a huge hit, despite -- or because -- of its homoerotic overtones, which sparked complaints from more conservative sections of society.

Most recently, a photograph that showed naked former AKB48 member Tomomi Kasai with a young, apparently Caucasian or Eurasian child cupping her breasts, set off police probe and led to the pulping of about 670,000 copies of a popular weekly magazine.


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