I was so traumatized by the experience that I don’t want it ever for my own child. And I don’t want my child to be in this industry at all,” declared actress Cris Villonco as she recalled the time she experienced bullying in high school.
Cris is a cast member of the local adaptation of the stage musical “Matilda,” which tackles, among other things, bullying. It runs at the Meralco Theater until Dec. 10.
She was recently a celebrity storyteller during the Inquirer’s annual Read-Along Festival. To kids ages 7 to 12, Cris read the story of “Filemon Mamon,” about the struggles of a boy as he overcomes bullies and his own weight problem.
“I was called a child singing sensation at age 9. During field trips, teachers would have a hard time because, all of a sudden, I’d be surrounded by other kids wanting autographs and have their photos taken with me,” she recalled.
“When your life doesn’t have that kind of normalcy—I don’t want to say there’s inggit (envy)—people would tell you you’re different.
“Whether or not they recognized it at the time, I don’t think they had the maturity to realize that what they were doing to me were forms of bullying,” Cris pointed out. “I got it from both the children and the grown-ups. It became even more difficult when my grandmother (Armida Siguion-Reyna) became the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) chief.”
Cris first gained popularity when she sang the theme song of the TV series “Hiraya Manawari,” composed by Ryan Cayabyab, then later recorded the pop song, “Crush ng Bayan.”
“My younger sister got the brunt of it more than I did,” Cris shared with the Inquirer. “Our mom pulled us out and put us in another school that recognized different family backgrounds and respected these differences.”
Interestingly, Cris plays Miss Honey in “Matilda.” Alternating as Matilda are Esang de Torres, Felicity Kyle Napuli and Uma Martin.
“At first, Esang looked like, ‘What the heck did I get myself into?’ Coming from ‘The Voice Kids,’ this is a whole new world for her—even if she has done ‘Les Miserables,’ which is already a feat on its own. ‘Matilda’ is much heavier in terms of the workload,” Cris observed. “Esang is hardworking and brings surprises every day with the way she connects with us.”
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