“Bench Universe”: the final frontier (Last of 2 Parts)

MEMBERS of the Philippine Volcanoes are ready to explode. (Chito Vecina)

KARYLLE (Chito Vecina)

(Conclusion) LED by Kim Chiu, Carla Avellana, Karylle and Lovi Poe, the girls also had their fair share of admirers, but the reception they got was nothing compared

JOHN Spainhour (Chito Vecina)

to the boys. Again, if we go by the public’s cheers, Lovi, in her bra and panties, was the hands-down favorite.

Just as they did two years ago, the show’s organizers, led by Suyen Corp. CEO Ben Chan, flew in an L.A.-based dance group as well as several Middle East-based Filipino designers such as Michael Cinco, Furne One and Ezra Santos.

Dubai designers

The “Dubai designers,” as members of local media have taken to calling them, were again featured doing their respective segments with their equally talented Philippine-based colleagues such as Cary Santiago, Randy Ortiz, Rajo Laurel, Joey Samson, James Reyes and Ivar Aseron.

Noel Manapat, Suyen’s senior in-house stylist, did the overall styling. Each designer worked around a theme incorporating Bench’s jeans, tops and underwear.

One (pronounced as O-ne), for instance, drew inspiration from underwater creatures found in the abyss as well as the marriage of man and machine. Using primarily white, silver, glowing and transparent materials, he utilized metal, Swarovski crystals, electric bulbs, rubber, plastic and various pieces of junk to realize his vision.

PAULO Avelino (Chito Vecina)

KIM Chiu (Chito Vecina)

Cinco did a nearly all-black suite he dubbed as “Fearless.” His inspirations, he said, were animals and insects that strike fear in the hearts of humans. He used such

ALJUR Abrenica (Chito Vecina)

materials as fiberglass, ceramics, visors and nets. He intentionally covered most of the models’ faces with visors to emphasize their bodies and underwear.

Apart from Asian-American hip hop band Far-East Movement, organizers also flew in “America’s Next Top Model” finalists Allison Harvard and Dominique Reighard. The former is the face behind Cinco’s fragrance for Bench dubbed as Impalpable.

Not a few of my fashionista friends noticed how awkward Allison walked on stage. One was even frank enough to declare the unspeakable: “My God! She doesn’t know how to walk.”

Nameless eye candies

But putting in more than the usual number of models, especially nameless Brazilians, had its drawbacks. With the exception of John Spainhour, who was the only Latino in the show to cross over from anonymity to celebrity, the rest of his compatriots were unknown eye candies.

My friend Jojo, who watched the show Thursday night, noticed that “Bench Universe” had fewer stars compared to previous shows.

Parang bitin ’yung show,” (The show left me wanting for more.) he said. “Mas madami pang model kesa celebrities. (There are more models than celebrities). And yes, I am amazed [at] how the handlers of Coco Martin have successfully transformed his image from an intense bold indie actor into a very wholesome and di maka-basag pinggang (sensitive and seemingly delicate) boy-next-door type. Balot na balot sa finale, kulang na lang, mag talukbong (Short of wearing a hood, he was fully clothed in the finale.).”

JAKE Cuenca–since you can’t seem to get enough of him (Chito Vecina)

ALLISON Harvard (Chito Vecina)

After my first installment on “Bench Universe” was published yesterday in this blog, reader Jesse also had this comment.

ENCHONG Dee (Chito Vecina)

“Richard [Gomez] got braver on the second night and came out without a shirt under his unbuttoned jacket,” Jesse wrote. “He still looked good, and his eyes have never lost their bright gleam after all these years.”

I told him that Richard Gomez, with or without a shirt on, has already earned his place in Philippine show biz and pop culture firmament. The original Bench endorser doesn’t have to prove anything anymore. That he still looks good after all these years is proof positive of what clean living and a happy family life can do.

New home

With a new home and bigger space at their disposal (for the longest time, Bench had been holding its shows at the Araneta Coliseum), stage director and overall choreographer Robby Carmona and stage designer Gino Gonzales went for a huge, flat, seven-feet high stage that had room for several mosh pits, giant video screens and a hydraulic platform.

While it gave selected members of the audience room to snap photos and take in the sights up close, the stage was too high for people seated in the first and second rows of the venue’s patron section.

Organizers had to quickly address the situation by transferring those seated in the first row to higher rows. The best seats in the house turned out to be not in the patron, but in the lower box section.

Going for a huge, flat stage also had its plus points as far as the show’s performers were concerned. For one, it gave dancers more legroom

BENJAMIN Alvez (Chito Vecina)

to do their routines. But it also made it a tad more difficult for the audience to focus on the proceedings.

GEORGINA Wilson (Chito Vecina)

At some points, the show, which had TV veteran Johnny Manahan as overall director, had too much going on, magnified in no small way by the huge, meandering stage. There were simply too many elements vying for your attention.

Well, who says the universe is small, tidy and could be wrapped up in one neat package? The universe, as Bench defined it, is huge, unpredictable, beautiful and constantly swinging from grand to humdrum due to its sheer size and weight.

(Those who wish to grab pictures for their blogs and social networking accounts, please credit photographer Chito Vecina. Until my next blog entry, keep on reading, dreaming and questioning.) 😀

THE “Bench Universe” party with Ben Chan, standing on a hydraulic platform, hoisted several feet from the ground (Chito Vecina)

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