OFF-STAGE with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Part 1)


Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo
Ms. Menchu with Fatima (winner), Genrev, and Frida

What’s it like meeting your personal hero?

Well, it depends. Sometimes, you’re left disappointed because they don’t turn out to be the person that you thought they would be. Other times, you’re relieved to find out that at least they’re not rude. They turn out to be friendly and nice, and you know that you can still continue to be a fan afterwards. But in the rarest of chances, they’re even better than what you pictured in your head — smarter, kinder, wittier, and even more brilliant than you ever imagined.

For those who don’t know, Theater Fans Manila started in April 2011, a few weeks after I caught Atlantis Productions’ Next to Normal. I was completely blown away by the show. I wanted to tell the world about this brilliant production and about how far Manila has come in terms of this art form. But also, I wanted to let everyone know about the talented actress who played the lead role of Diana Goodman.

How I had not known about Ms. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo prior to this performance not only speaks volumes of how blatantly ignorant I was, but also about how much local theater was not being put in the limelight. I mean, how can a so-called theater fan like me not know the First Lady of Philippine Musical Theater?

Since then, I have watched every show that she was a part of, whether she was acting in it, directing it, or involved in it in whatever shape or form. You could say that I was trying my best to gain back all those lost years not knowing about her talent. If it isn’t obvious by now, I am undoubtedly her biggest fan. How could I possibly love her more?

A few months ago, we reached a big milestone for Theater Fans Manila. After 4 years of hard work, we finally reached 10,000 followers on Facebook. To celebrate this achievement, we were planning to launch a contest called the 10 for 10k Giveaway Contest. The objective was to say thank you to our followers by giving out 10 unique contest prizes. These were items that we have gotten from different theater companies over the past year, including merchandise from PETA, Dalanghita Productions, Ballet Manila, Dulaang UP, 9 Works Theatrical, Concertus Manila, The Necessary Theater, and even a playbill from Broadway. We counted 9 in total. We wanted the first prize to be not just big, but also something that was meaningful to us. “What about a meet and greet lunch with a famous actor?”, I asked the team. “But who would agree to this? It would be great if Ms. Menchu would.” (We scoffed at the unlikelihood of the idea.) But wouldn’t you know it, she agreed without the slightest hesitation.

(Read more about the 10 for 10k Giveaway Contest here)

Why would someone like her willingly agree to have lunch with some random fans? I still have no idea.

Over the span of a month, 9 major prizes were given out, including exclusive TFM shirts and 10 consolation prizes. We only had one more prize to go. I waited in anticipation as we narrowed down the most convenient date for our winner, Ms. Fatima Leana Mercado, and for Ms. Menchu. And then we got it: October 28.

(For a complete list of the winners, click here)

I arrived at the venue 2 hours early that day, with barely any sleep the night before. A little past 12 noon, our team member Angela, our winner Fatima, her friend Genrev, and Ms. Menchu successively arrived. Ms. Menchu jokingly told us that she left a student at a rehearsal because she had to come over to meet us. While she was talking, we found out that she actually made adjustments to her schedule just so she could spend more time with us that day.

During the first few minutes, we were all a bit tense because… who wouldn’t be? But she was the type of person who would make anyone feel instantly comfortable, with no ego, no air in sight. She was down-to-earth, intelligent, creative, witty, brilliant and hilarious. It felt like we were talking to a friend who we’ve all known for a long time.

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo
(L-R) Ms. Menchu with Frida, Genrev and our winner Fatima

To ease the initial nervousness, we began by talking about a few general topics. We were able to get a glimpse of Ms. Menchu’s life outside of the stage. So, what else is she interested in?

Is Ms. Menchu a techy?
“I’m not a techy. As long as I get my phone calls, my texts, I’m fine. If I’m able to send my emails, I’m fine. I don’t really surf unless I have to, which is maybe work-related. But surfing for the heck of it, like how some people surf all night, not at all. I will not see a link unless you send it to me. (laughs)”

How does she get her news?
“People tell me. I don’t know anything about showbiz. I only know the theater world, and that usually gets to me through texts. For current events, I just read the newspaper.”

What TV shows does she watch?
“Penny Dreadful. I just finished the second season. I’m starting the season 5 of Scandal. I’m going to finish the [first] season of How to Get Away with Murder. Game of Thrones, I’m waiting for that.”

What about travel or vacations?
I go to visit my daughter every year. She’s studying in New York, which is great. She always teases me, ‘Mom, you don’t come to visit me, you come to watch shows. (laughs) It’s partially true. (laughs)”

Time flew by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was already 4 pm. Not only did we get to know Ms. Menchu on a personal level, but we also received a crash course on the inner workings of the theater industry. (We’ll explore more of that in part 2 of our series. Watch out for it!) In those precious hours, we got to see the whole picture of an industry that I love with a passion, told by none other than my idol. How does it get better than that?

**This is the first of our two-part feature about our TFM Giveaway lunch with Ms. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. Part 2 will focus more on our winner’s experience, as well as our very comprehensive theater lesson!**

(READ: OFF-STAGE with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo Part 2)

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