Even before he started his career in the movies, Coco Martin was never a newcomer in facing the cameras. He had done several commercials before, including a PLDT commercial directed by movie director Jeffrey Jeturian. His other commercials were for various products like Smart, Coke, 7-11, Lux, Alaska and Mitsubishi Adventure.
Coco, who is Rodel Nacienceno in real life, was born on November 1, 1984 in Pampanga. He finished his Hotel & Restaurant Course at the NCBA two years ago. He turned 21 years old last November, in time for the showing of his second movie in a starring role, Masahista (The Masseur) by first-timer Director Brillante ‘Dante’ Mendoza from an original story written by Ferdinand Lapuz and scripted by Butch Pastor.
Actually, Coco’s first movie was Sen. Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla’s AGIMAT, an official entry to the 2002 Metro Manila Film Festival. He joined the Star Circle Batch 9 of ABS-CBN with Heart Evangelista and Janus del Prado.
Coco was reportedly the first and last choice for the role of masseur in Masahista. In preparing for his role, he underwent training as a masseur in (of all places!) a gay massage parlor. For one week, he observed, got massaged and did massaging himself, undergoing and experiencing the real thing in several massage parlors. Thereafter, he took an acting workshop under the supervision of ace trainers. In one instance, Coco called for a masseur incognito. Not knowing that he was doing research for a movie, the masseur tried to give Coco the ‘special service’ but Coco wisely refused the offer. Coco instead interviewed the masseur to get some important tips and guidance he can use in the actual shooting. The main thing Coco learned is ‘sensual massage’ where the masahista intentionally teases the customer by rubbing his crotch on any part of the client’s body to seduce him to ask for a special service.
Coco admits he also go to massage parlors like Spa’s where what he gets from male masseurs is the real rubdown and not those specials available in gay massage parlors.
The movie Masahista was given an R-18 rating by the MTRCB without cuts though there were some nude scenes but the SM cinema circuit has a policy of refusing to show R-18 rated films (except for those which get an A or B rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board). Masahista was shown at the Robinson’s Galleria and in other shopping malls.
During the shooting, Coco recalls that Director Dante Mendoza did not allow him and co-actor Alan Paule to cover their private parts with plaster. Some scenes were shot in a narrow cubicle and the director was apprehensive the camera will catch the plastic. In the steamy scene between Coco and Alan, both actors were totally nude. Coco actually had a frontal nude scene but Alan covered Coco’s private parts with both hands for obvious reasons. Coco says he knows Alan is a professional actor and he did not mind it at all. He says he just let go of all inhibitions. He was briefed before hand about the sensitive scenes and Coco had prepared himself for them. It would be unprofessional of him to have qualms during the shoot for he knew he was working with high-caliber and professional actors. He trusted his director and his co-actors. He confesses he had no limitations in portraying his role and was ready to do what his director asked him to do.
The director and the cast were surprised by the encouraging turnout of people who came to watch the movie, more than what they expected, at the Robinson Galleria. It was much more than what they expected, a cast member recalls. The director and his cast immediately made a theater tour and were equally pleased with the box-office performance of their film in the other theaters.
Masahista was shown in several international film festivals. Coco, together with Director Dante Mendoza and producer Fedelyn Geling, went to Locarno, Switzerland where the movie is in competition in August. It was the first Filipino film that competed in the Switzerland festival. Director Dante Mendoza recalls that they were literally in a jitter, doubting that people will come to watch their film. The other countries in competition had full government support. The Filipino group went to Switzerland on their own with the help from some friends in the industry. Surprisingly, it won the much coveted Golden Leopard Award.
Masahista then proceeded to other international film festivals, largely through the help of Ferdinand Lapuz. In October, it was shown in the Vienna Film Festival in Austria. Then the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium and the Sao Paolo International Film festival in Brazil in October and November. It was also exhibited at the Vancouver Film Festival in Vancouver, Canada. The movie is scheduled to enter other film festivals in Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and elsewhere.
Coco Martin says he is indeed very lucky to have his first lead-role movie to be able to enter in several international filmfests. As a newcomer, Coco was pitted against veteran performers Alan Paule and Jacklyn Jose who were both convinced that their young co-star will make it to the top, courtesy of a good script and a good director. Ihman Esturco, Coco’s manager, says he has received film offers for his talent after the success of Masahista. A TV appearance in a popular evening series is being considered too for the young man.
Young as he is, Coco still needs the guidance from the veterans to be able to withstand the rigors of the demanding world of filmmaking. And to keep his foothold in the competitive world of show business, Coco must provide himself with enough stamina, guts and the professional know-how to be able to survive the grueling demands of this dog-eat-dog business. What does he need to survive in showbiz? Certainly, a good PR, especially with the press people and his fans, and a firm dedication to his craft Any message for the ultimate masseur? A simple Good luck! And we don’t have to rub it in.