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    Monday, October 22, 2018

    The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Jorelle Liwanag

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    Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Smark Henry's recurring series, a little something we would like to call the Smark Henry Hip Toast—our happy place where we interview various personalities in pro wrestling, shoot from the hip, and raise them a toast. We will be looking at the men behind the personas and giving you all an intimate look at the wrestlers who are helping build this wonderful sport and turn it into something really special in this country.

    With Todos Los Wrestling around the corner, now's as good a time as any to focus on the supernatural force of the Manila Wrestling Federation, Jorelle Liwanag!


    It was a new beginning for the Manila Wrestling Federation back in April of 2018, when it relaunched under the reins of new management. With renewed inspiration, new direction, and the entire roster ready to maximize their full potential, Kasaysayan was the perfect show for the promotion to set the tone for the rest of the year and beyond.  In many ways, this was the first year in local pro wrestling where we were all in quite the uncharted territory.

    What we didn't know at the time was how one surprising new face would make an immediate impact, and in many ways, wow the audience the likes of which no one has seen prior.

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    When Fabio Makisig would open the Libro ng Liwanag after his match, nobody expected a dazzling white lady would freak out both the bully and the entire audience. And like a mystery slowly being revealed, this new face in the roster would slowly capture the attention of the fans with her creepy yet engaging mannerisms, coupled with undeniable athleticism, garnering praise from the fanbase.

    Jorelle Liwanag would leave an impression everyone won't soon forget.

    And for one as dynamic as the MWF's Assassin of Death, her inspirations are definitely not too far-fetched as she would tell us herself, a fan even from the early days.

    "I've actually loved watching wrestling ever since I was 12 years old. I was amazed by Jeff Hardy, John Morrison, and Finn Balor's moves. And until now, they are the apples of my eye. Every time I watch wrestling, I imagine myself inside the ring beating my opponent, no matter how tall or how big; that makes me feel bold, valiant, and dauntless."

    True enough, before becoming a wrestler herself, she was a fan who knew who she wanted to be because of her inspirations over the years. In a funny twist of fate, however, her dauntless spirit would show in endeavors outside the world of pro wrestling, skills that would unknowingly be helpful to her later in life. As pro wrestling wasn't exactly around in the local scene a long time ago, it would be a blessing in disguise.

    As Jorelle narrated to us, "I trained and participated in taekwondo for an inter-school sports competition where flexibility and kicks helped me a lot. I also took kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu sessions at the gym to gain more knowledge and techniques in self-defense, as it might help me out for my wrestling skills. I also perform action stunts for various TV or movie projects."

    It was the perfect storm for a fan wanting to dip her toes in what would eventually become the local wrestling scene later in life. As a fan growing up with skills to back it up already under her belt, it was only a matter of time before she would make her splash in the scene.

    That perfect storm? BuyBust. And just like that, everything fell into place.

    "On February 2018 at the wrap party of BuyBust, I met actor Tarek El Tayech, who's also the Senior Analyst for MWF. He invited me to train and be a part of his team. I accepted his offer to train with the roster of MWF, which included Mr. Lucha, Robin Sane, and Fabio Makisig. It was helpful that this is related to my stunt skills, but more on attacks, holds, slams, and other techniques," said Jorelle when talking about her initial exposure with MWF.

    Her love for what she does would show through her different endeavors, and like wrestling, her work in BuyBust is no different.

    "BuyBust was the most awaited, total non-stop action movie of the year," she said. "We gave a lot of blood and sweat for this; we pushed every night to shoot. All of the stunts and fight scenes that we made were so exhausting, but it was all worth it just to make the movie go massive and fascinate action fans around the country."

    It was during her relatively short time in training that the character of Jorelle would be born. Turns out, it didn't take a long time to process the idea as she already had the gimmick envisioned from the beginning.

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    "I really wanted to portray a heel, and a supernatural gimmick was the very first gimmick on my mind. Playing Jorelle is one of the most challenging parts to do. She is practically divergent and totally badass, [terrorizing and frightening] the living daylights out of someone. She was first revealed as one of the last remaining followers of the Moises Liwanag Fellowship, together with Brother Jomar."

    As MWF slowly reveals more about the history of Jorelle through her origin videos, more fans are getting to know more layers surrounding a character that, while scary at first, has more stories to tell. And that is a testament to both the talent of Jorelle as well as the wonder of this new MWF.

    But with momentum on her side, one cannot help wonder about how she can balance many different careers under her belt, considering stunt work and wrestling can be quite demanding in terms of scheduling conflicts.

    As Jorelle would mention, "It depends on my schedule if I have no movie or TV shoots. I am free to train and/or participate in the event, but sometimes if I have a shoot (which the talent caster [gives me a schedule for]), then I have to justify [doing that] before the day of the show or training."

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    Thus far, Jorelle has not only showed up on all MWF shows this year but also made statements along the way in her months-old wrestling career. Fans can agree: through her matches with the likes of Gigz Stryker, Fabio Makisig, and RG, she became a true revelation in the local wrestling scene, with "Jorelle's gonna kill you" chants as a sign of approval from those widely impressed by her work. It is no wonder Smark Henry granted her the title of Rookie of the Midyear, and at this rate, Best Rookie of 2018.

    And in many ways, this has become a victory for the blossoming local women's wrestling scene. Until now, Jorelle remains surprised of the praise and honor bestowed upon her just a few months into her career.

    When asked on her reaction to the praise, she had this to say, with much appreciation:

    "I can hardly believe it. I'm grateful that I got an award for the first time in my wrestling career. Many thanks to my MWF Family for all the possibilities, the shows, and the training sessions during a couple of days in the month. The training sessions were wonderful stepping stones that helped as I eventually made my debut appearance and debut match. These prepared me, not just for eventual sinister look and feel of Jorelle, but also with understanding the sensational and remarkable skills that would surprise the Manilaverse."

    What's crazy in all of this is that she has only been a wrestler for a few months, and she's already making quite the noise in the scene. By next month, she would have already competed in an official capacity for approximately seven months. And that begs the question: what's in line for the future of Jorelle? Her answer to that is simple and sweet.

    "To continue pursuing my dreams and making more history as a stuntwoman, performing artist, and wrestler. Without these opportunities, my talents are useless and I feel unproductive."

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    One thing is for sure: her presence will only help grow what is already a blossoming Southeast Asian wrestling scene filled with talent waiting to burst. Without these happy coincidences in her life, who knew how the scene would be like now? If she's already making this much of an impact in only a little over half a year, imagine what she can do in a few years' time.


    MWF 5: Todos Los Wrestling is on October 28, 2018 at the U.P. Bahay ng Alumni. Tickets are now on sale. Enjoy early bird discounts and barkada bundle deals when you pre-order your tickets. 

    Disclosure: Smark Henry is independently owned and managed by a group of Filipino pro wrestling fans, but includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.

    All photos from the Manila Wrestling Federation Facebook page.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Jorelle Liwanag Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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