The prime of Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino

The Inbox

By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

The Filipino actress  -- who won three Best Supporting Actress trophies  for her role in the indie film, "Nino" from the   Cine Malaya, Golden Screen to the 6th Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong -- is really no stranger to audience and critics' acclaim  since she started acting professionally in the 80s.

"Awards mean that most of the jury members liked your work above the others in competition," she says. "I feel very happy every time I get one. It is the opinion of a few but the recognition assures publicity and hopefully more acting jobs."

When  she saw the film clips of the other nominees, she thought she had no chances as other equally distinguished actors were flying in from  China, Thailand, Japan including those based in Hong Kong. As it turned out, she bagged the third award for the same role in "Nino" beating four other Asian nominees.

Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, 47, is a mother of four and comes from a generation of distinguished stage and film actors that include Pen Medina, John Arcilla, Madeleine Nicolas and, among others, Nonie Buencamino who happens to be her husband.

In  1989,  she appeared in the  well-received Filipino play, "In My Father's House"  by Elsa Coscoluella at the CCP Bulwagang Batute and stunned audiences who were not exactly theater fans. It was staged by the UP Playwright's Theater and was brought to Singapore's Victoria Theater. "That play I consider as my 'home," she points out. "It is where I was born, where I learned to walk and talk. It is where I learned most of what I know about my craft. "

Shamaine  realized that she  wanted to be an actress  while studying at the Philippine High School for the Arts. "Theater taught me respect for acting. That respect drives me to prepare for each and every role that I get," she said.

Her marriage to Nonie Buencamino produced four children who got their parents' acting genes. "All my four children have acted in at least one film! I must say that a houseful of actors equates to a volatile household! Conversations are sometimes held with an English accent especially when there is a family member doing Shakespeare! Discussions on performances are on-going all the time. Acting discoveries are shared and treasured. And we are almost always opinionated so it can get loud! Our eldest daughter, Delphine, who also majored in theater at the Philippine High School for the Arts and took up Humanities in Ateneo, has been warned: do theater only if you can't live without it! Unfortunately theater is financially unstable so that one has to truly love it to thrive in it."

Shamaine and Nonie  -- who are both in the high-rating teleserye, Walang Hanggan --  met at the Tanghalang Pilipino playing husband and wife in  "Taga sa Panahon," a Pilipino  translation of the play, "A Man for All Seasons." Their mutual love for theater ended in marriage during their stints at Tanghalang Pilipino where they were pioneer members.

The best part of being married to actors is that she gets free coaching.  Moreover, they are also their own worst critic. "After more than 20 years, we have learned how to be generous with our praises and gentle with our criticisms because we do take each other's opinion seriously. Yes, we can be very brutal with our comments but we always offer possible acting choices that the other actor can try."

During their CCP theater stints in the 80s, they were receiving a mere P3000 a month each which were not enough even for the two of them. When the babies started coming one after the other, they had to find alternative ways to improve their income. They limited their theater appearances and for a while actually dropped out from the theater scene." I felt stupid for insisting that I had to sacrifice and earn a lot more for my family when the main thing that made my family happy was my happiness - not the money in the bank."

Her most recent memorable film roles includes Swanie (the barangay captain in REquieme! by Loy Arcenas), the lesbian daughter in "Niño" also by  Arcenas), the mother (Maskara by Laurice Guillen) and another mother role (Ikaw ang Pag-ibig by Marilou Diaz-Abaya).

Dazzling were her recent stage roles like Atang (the sazuela queen),  Madonna Brava, Reyna (Kalungkutan ng Reyna), Queen Elizabeth, Sister Emily, among others.  There are roles she would like to do again. "Actually I like all my roles including those that I have done when I was just starting in Naga City in Bicol when I was in grade 5. There are other roles I would like to do all over again because I feel I have not yet truly given justice to them. These are the parts of  Queen Elizabeth in Mary Stuart and Masha in Three Sisters."

For Shamaine, character study is the most creative stage for her as an actress. This is where she seeks the history, the circumstances, the thoughts, feelings and ultimately the soul of the character.

"Acting has to be truthful. That's all there is to it. Acting based on truth resonates and reaches the heart of any viewer," she said.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")