By Jamaila S. Cahilig and Jenny Lynne G. Aguilar
Photo by Marc Laurenze C. Celis
BEHIND the latest ABS-CBN teleserye, Walang Kapalit and other soap opera and movies that made an imprint in the mind and hearts of its televiewers is a former waiter turned film and television director.
Wenn De Ramas shares the popularity and honor to direct primetime soap operas such as Mula Sa Puso (1997), Saan Ka Man Naroroon (1999), Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan (2001), Bituin (2002), Buttercup (2003), Marina (2004), and Kampanerang Kuba (2005).
He also came up with laugh-out-loud movies which eventually become instant hits. Included in the roster are Ang Tanging Ina (2003), Volta (2004), D’lucky Ones (2006), Kapag Tumibok ang Puso (2006), and most recently, Ang Cute ng Ina Mo.
Making of a director
Life is a complicated script full of twists and turns. Wenn De Ramas knows this. What he is now is hardly prefigured by his 1987 graduation as a Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) student of UST.
At that time, De Ramas dabbled in events organizing, management strategies, and accounting, not film-making.
“Tourism and HRM were among the popular courses during my time. Sadly, things changed after the EDSA revolution,” he said.
But De Ramas does not regret taking HRM instead of a communication course.
“I learned management and accounting, which were my favorite subjects back then,” he said. “I have been able to apply these whenever I do production work since it deals with budgeting, supervising, and dealing with people.”
Known for his romantic Claudine Baretto soap operas and hilarious Ai Ai de las Alas comedies, De Ramas participated in short skits when he was in elementary school and was a member of the theater group in his high school. His passion for directing was further developed when he joined Teatro Tomasino, the official theater guild of UST, during his freshman year.
At Teatro, he immersed himself in learning the ropes of production such as lighting, directing, and even acting. “I also enjoyed working on props, make-up and costumes,” he said.
Aside from being a student and a loyal member of Teatro Tomasino, De Ramas was also a scholar of the University. Since his modest family could not afford his tuition, he had to maintain a high grade in order to retain his scholarship.
He shared one of his secrets on how he got through college life despite the seeming impossibilities: “I never bought any books that we needed in class,” he said. “I would borrow the books from the library, then return them in order to borrow the books needed for the next subject the following day.”
Being an HRM graduate, De Ramas applied as a waiter at the Aristocrat restaurant and worked there for two years. Although he was promoted to supervisor, he resigned soon after.
“I thought that it was time to resign because being supervisor meant that there was no other way up,” he said. “I had to move on. That was the peak for me at that job.”
From being a waiter and a supervisor in Aristocrat, De Ramas landed a job at ABS-CBN in 1990 after an old colleague from Teatro Tomasino recommended him as production assistant for the sitcoms Bistek and Abangan and Susunod na Kabanata. He has been with the network ever since.
“I was eventually trusted to handle the role of executive producer in a variety of shows which applied all the things I learned in UST like management skills, budgeting, and dealing with psychotic artists,” he jokingly said.
De Rama’s said that in his directing, he is inspired by the late film directors and National Artists Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.
His lack of formal training in filmmaking was overshadowed by his vast experience in production and theater. In 1998, he directed his first movie, Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita, a drama topbilled by Rico Yan, Diether Ocampo, and Claudine Baretto.
De Ramas has proven his competence and flexibility as a director. He not only excels in directing television dramas and comedies; he has also achieved success as a film director.
“My mentors at ABS-CBN had intentionally trained me to do dramas in TV and somehow convinced me to venture into making comedies in the big screen,” he said. “It must have been really a calling for me because it has never crossed my mind to actually turn my passion into a profession,”
“I don’t have a particular style when it comes to directing because it depends on the genre or story of the project,” De Ramas said.
Despite his flourishing career in show business, De Ramas said he plans to eventually go back to his first love and not let his degree in HRM go to waste.
“I plan to open a restaurant of my own,” he said. “But as of now, doing movies is my main priority.”
UST will always have a special place in De Ramas’ heart as he really enjoyed his studies and extra-curricular activities in the University. He advised UST students to take advantage of what Thomasian education has to offer.
“I’m proud of UST and of course, Teatro Tomasino,” he said. “I loved my stay in the University and I am truly proud to be a Thomasian.”