Then and now: 'Gifted' children 20 years later

By Jose Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 29 2015 09:29 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2015 08:20 PM

Kiko Galura, James Flores and Shaira Luna as seen in the 1995 'Gifted Child' TV commercial. Screengrab

MANILA - Twenty years since they first impressed with their smarts and talent, the stars of the iconic "gifted children" TV commercial have reunited with a mission at hand.

Shaira Luna, Kiko Galura and James Flores are paying it forward via the Gifted Movement, which aims to raise awareness of nurturing the potential or gifts of children for future success.

Aired in 1995, the Promil ad showed Luna and Flores sharing facts about the human anatomy and the solar system, and Galura reciting lines from a Tagalog poem.

"When we were kids, when we shot the commercial, it wasn't really a big deal for us. It was like we were all messing around lang on the set," Galura told ABS-CBN News during a press conference held Thursday. "After that, it opened doors for me in a way that it led me towards the creative industry."

Before becoming a book publisher, Galura was a creative officer in an ad agency. He was also a visual artist for a time, interpreting the vision of his colleagues. Among the books he has published is the best-seller-turned-movie "She's Dating the Gangster."

"With my line of work now, since I publish books, I like to think of it as giving a venue for young, aspiring writers to get their work out there," he said. "I hope to give a voice to other storytellers, just like me when I was a kid."

Similarly, Flores involves himself with the youth and budding artists. As music director of a Christian church, he has spearheaded since 2010 programs for musically inclined children, like himself in his early years as influenced by his grandmother.

"Now they can play well," said Flores, who is also pursuing graduate studies in clinical psychology. "They can play in church and serve. Kahit wala ako, they can do it on their own. 'Yung mga next batches of music lessons for the newer kids, sila na 'yung nagtuturo at overseer na lang ako."

Flores added: "It's really fulfilling to see them learn and not only learn, but to share that learning. May fingerprint na ako, my legacy na ako kahit paano. I'm just glad to be able to help out and give back to the community. We have a responsibility to our community, to help ensure that we have a better future."

For Luna, taking part in honing the gifts of a younger generation feels "surreal," saying she remembers clearly being a child who was being primed for success as an adult.

"Time flew really fast!" she said. "People say I still look exactly the same, my bangs are exactly the same! It makes me really happy when people say they recognize the commercial and they say it was part of their childhood."

Now a fashion photographer, Luna considers her foray into the industry a "strange" turn of events, noting that she had trained and took up lessons for many things growing up, except for the art she now considers her passion.

"Photography was the one thing I wasn't given lessons for," said Luna, who has been a professional photographer for nine years. "I tried everything, from music, sports to the arts; photography was just never there."

"It was very organic," she said of becoming a photographer. "It wasn't overnight. We (Flores and Galura) all tried to hone our crafts and really persevere and work hard. It's not enough to be called 'gifted,' you have to work hard."

James Flores, Shaira Luna and Kiko Galura in 2015. Photo from the official Facebook page of Promil Pre-School

Luna, who entered college at age 13, explained that her keen interest in photography and regular practice of the craft, despite having no formal training, made her realize that it was her passion.

"It was just me really looking for something I hadn't tried or spoon-fed to me. It was very challenging for me because I had to learn things on my own, I didn't have a syllabus, and that was the fun part for me."

She added: "I am pretty happy and really contented right now, honestly. My photography didn't come overnight. I enjoy every day. When I shoot, it's always a new day. I think that's the difference between this and everything else I tried; my photography has a 'kilig' factor."

Asked for her message to the new generation of gifted children, Luna said, "Never lose the child in you, because that's what keeps you curious."