Dare She Goes
Local model Chantel Marie Tingzon is into the rough and tough sports like airsoft and paintball, but underneath the mask and fatigues is all woman, as a visit to el kabayo at the clark freeport zone in pampanga would surely prove.
Words by Alex A. Gatpanda | Photography by Milo Sogueco
Styling by Paris Roxas | Makeup by Angie Cruz for Shu Uemura
Hair by George Aliben for Kiehl's stylist series
Forrest Gump is playing on the in-car stereo, and I’m looking out the window as roadside scenes zip by. It’s a nice morning, the sun barely warming up everything, and we are several miles away from Manila and going farther. The theme music is languid, the scenery relaxing. But I feel the excitement building up inside me.
We are on our way to Clark Air Base, what used to be an American Air Force base in Pampanga until 1991 when the ‘Joes’ packed up their bags and handed it over to the Philippine government. It’s now a freeport zone with lots of recreational facilities for out-of-towners like us.
‘Us’ would include Uno's Creative Director and the official photographer for the day’s event, which happens to be a cover pictorial and the cause of some palm-sweating I usually get when there’s excitement in the air.
I’ve been away from editorial work for sometime, having tried the call center industry previously and liking the experience of talking to somebody from halfway around the world and helping him solve his Internet connectivity issues. It was fun and a kind of adventure on its own, never knowing what kind of customer you’d get next: friendly, irate, dumb, techie or, the worst kind, techie and irate. It was like Forrest’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.
Which is exactly what I am thinking at the moment: What kind of interviewee would our cover model be? Would she be a one-liner or a volume talker? The soundtrack finally runs its course, and it seems our driver has no compunction to load another disc. No one speaks, each preoccupied with his own thoughts. Only the steady hum of the car’s engine can be heard, and somehow, that is muted too.
Suddenly we are there, going through the (former) air base’s main gate. Then we turn at a smaller road that says Gil Puyat Ave. and I have to deliver a lame joke about us ending up where we started--in Makati City that also has a Gil Puyat Ave. They laugh, but more probably out of propriety. Then I see it, something out of a Hollywood set. A series of wooden buildings ringed by a wooden fence. It reminds me of those John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies. We have reached our destination, El Kabayo, a mix of Spanish and Filipino words that literally means ‘the horse.’
I half expect to see a lone stallion waiting for us. But of course there are actually several of them, the place being set up to satisfy Wild West cravings. It ain’t no one-horse town, that’s fer sure.
Soon, I find out it’s not just equines that patiently wait. She is there as well, the object of our trip. The reason for my excitement, all five feet seven inches of her, long brown locks, fair and smooth skin, winsome smile.
“Hi, I’m Chantel. You must be from Uno,” she says while offering her hand. Soft hand, firm grip, genuine smile on her lips. I like her instantly. She introduces us to her father, the man beside her. He is amiable as well, and supports his daughter’s career. They reveal that they have used the occasion to see each other again after quite some time. I ask her how her trip was from her home in Guam to the Philippines.
“The trip was awesome,” she answers, eyes shining.
“I made new friends. I also enjoyed the long drive [from Manila to Clark].”
I give her my warmest smile that I could manage, consciously trying not to look like a bear that has discovered some honey. I need to establish rapport with her, the first step towards a successful interview. She smiles back. We are ushered into the El Kabayo office where Chantel will be made up. It’s going to be a long process, the photo shoot even longer, but that initial meeting has convinced me that the girl is a professional, and that the interview session should be a breeze.
Not Your Ordinary Girl
Chantel Marie Tingzon is 22 years old, born on August 4, which makes her a Leo. She studied at St. Scholastica’s College-Westgrove and took up pre-nursing. When she is not modeling, you can find her at her day job at the Manhattan Steakhouse in Tumon. Her favorite hangouts are any of Guam’s beaches and Ralphy’s Lounge in East Hagatna. As a little girl, she used to go biking, rollerblading and skateboarding, but says she seldom does any of them anymore because of her schedule.
She is finally settled into the makeshift makeup chair, with the artist busy transforming Chantel’s visage to complement the concept of the pictorial. I take out my cell phone, put it on record mode, and perch next to her, but not close enough to get in the way. She can’t look at me, lest the makeup goes this way and that too.
I say hi again and ask her if it’s okay if we conduct the interview then. She smiles as far as the makeup session will allow her. That’s my cue.
“What’s your best characteristic?” I ask.
She thinks for a sec, then laughs out loud. “That’s it, laughing out loud,” she says. “It’s food for the soul.” I’m kind of stumped. That’s the first time I’ve heard something like that. And then I thought, it’s possibly along the lines of laughter being the best medicine. (Thanks, Reader’s Digest.)
“How about your best physical asset, what would it be?” I continue.
“It would be my legs because I’m pretty lean,” she answers almost immediately. At 5’7” in height and weighing a mere 115lbs, she is definitely lean. Would there be anything that she would like to change or alter in herself then?
“To have a closer relationship with the Lord,” she says, almost solemnly. I pause for a few seconds, letting it sink it. Then I ask what makes her different.
“I like to do things that [other girls] wouldn’t normally do.” Pressed to elaborate, Chantel says it’s indulging in activities that are usually the province of boys. “Like airsoft or paintball games,” she clarifies.
Not Her First Rodeo
It’s been four years now since Chantel started her career in modeling. She used to watch The Tyra Banks Show, the supermodel being one of her favorite icons. For her career and craft, she is willing to go to extremes, such as posing with a pack of lions or tigers for a fashion or a cover pictorial. “I would definitely take it to the next level because I love animals, especially lions,” she gushes.
“What’s the wildest thing you have ever done so far?”
I ask her.
She collects her thoughts for a minute, and then her face lights up. “I had a pictorial at a beach during high tide. I was holding sharp spears. I was supposed to be spear fishing!” She laughs out loud. Food for the soul. Can’t help but laugh with her. Her laughter is infectious, I must say.
My follow-up question turns her serious though: What’s the wildest thing you would never, ever do even if it promises rewards beyond your imagination?
“I would never do complete nudity. It’s just not me,” Chantel says. Guess there’s always a limit for everyone. I ask her if she will consider a career in the military, which is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum—from being a glamorous fashion model to a tough military personnel.
“Possibly within eight years, I see myself serving my country in the military.”
This should not be a surprise, given the strong character that Chantel has shown beneath the beauty and the glamour. I see the opportunity to plunge into the adventure theme, so I ask her if she considers herself an adventurous person. She grins and nods her head. “I love to explore what the world has in store,” she says. “There is never a dull moment when you are exploring.”
I look outside the office and see the horses in their paddock, some nibbling at the grass while others are prancing to and fro. They are magnificent beasts all right, and I think the Wild West could never have been without them. I turn back to Chantel and catch her looking at the horses as well. The makeup artist is almost through with his task.
“What’s your impression of the Far West era, when real cowboys and Indians roamed the plains?” I ask.
She looks away, back to the horses outside, and then says, “Devastating.” I wait for more, but Chantel remains silent. I can only think she means that it was bad for the native American Indians whose existence was disrupted by the newcomers from the East; bad as well for the prospectors and their families who had to deal with the harsh environment and the natives who disapproved of their intrusion.
So I ask her a theoretical question instead. “If you had lived there during the period, what role would you have played: Calamity Jane or Pocahontas?”
The seriousness is gone. The smile is back on her lips. “I would choose Pocahontas. She was a great woman who put her people’s [welfare] first.” I imagine she is imagining Disney’s Pocahontas. I would too.
“Do you see yourself scalping someone?”
“No, that’s too painful.” I can imagine that too.
The 64-dollar question needs to be asked. Is Chantel still available? The answer is no. She has a boyfriend whom she says got her into the sport of airsoft. “We love extreme activities, and someday we plan to sky dive.”
She says airsoft is a very competitive sport. “I have a team of my own and we get together every week.”
How do guys react when they see her with a mask and playing their game?
Chantel smiles impishly. “At first, they think it’s cool or sexy, but when it’s game time, there is no mercy for the opposing team,” she states. “Never underestimate a woman.” I agree, especially if her name is Chantel.
Does she see herself as a tomboy? “Sometimes, because you can’t always look pretty on the outside, only on the inside.”
Finally the makeup session is done. Chantel looks in the mirror, and I look at her, and we both see a different person. Glamorous, fashionable. A goddess. It’s only when I look directly in her eyes that I see the real Chantel there -- the loving daughter, the tomboy, the adventurous spirit. And I know, she is one complete woman. Chantel stands up, winks at me and walks out the door. Her horse is ready.