A great man is not determined by his success, but by his journey towards achieving it. I am leaving this thought with you as I tell you more about a passionate young man who is blessed with pure talent, inspiring determination, and resonating generosity. Wong Israel’s path in search of his ‘calling’ has been paved with daring challenges that exposed him to the actualities of the world. At an early age of 15, he learned the value of hard work, patience, and perseverance as he plunged right into the discriminating world of gay beauty pageants, which opened his eyes and allowed his perspective to be shaped by the realities of life—you win some, you lose some. This experience, later on, became an indispensable skill of resourcefulness and creativity as he strived to create his own pageant pieces from scraps; a most powerful lesson that gave him a deeper understanding of the true meaning of humility.
It was never easy to take a walk down memory lane. And, this particular trip sent Wong back further down the road of worldly knowledge only one could learn the hard way. As he delves in more, Wong opens up on his working experiences: he took on another job as an impersonator to help carry out the daily needs of his aging grandmother and save more for financial security. He ventured in the realm of entertainment with hopes of elevating his way of living—a career path courageously took on at a young age where he assimilated the skills of make-up application, costume design, and fashion styling. Such determination truly tells someone’s character and disposition.
Wong shares, with pride and a full heart, how much he looks up to his grandmother and how she influenced his desire to pursue fashion. Her [grandmother], prancing around in billowy dresses (while Wong hides beneath the table) is all the inspiration he needed to fall in love with all things beautiful. A right decision he made in deference to the influence of his grandmother, as he saw how fashion played an important role in her life leading him to take his fashion knowledge to the next level at The Fashion Institute of the Philippines. This new path served as a step into the right direction to being one of the first fashion stylists in mainstream media.
As an advocate of the LGBT cause himself, 17-year-old Wong started to help young aspirants to join and win transgender pageants in his locale back in 2004. His unwavering passion in celebrating beauty competitions eventually led him to champion his own LGBT and women pageants. Day in and out, this has been his life for two years making the people in its community his second family. This was a phase of his life where he embraced the triumphs, defeats, the beauty, and the chaos that transpire every single day on the four panels of the pageant stage—a wake up call to his suppressed vision of bringing meaningful stories to life encompassing the four sides of the big scree to his rousing passion of creating and directing his. As he moves forward, he deeply connects to the sentiments of his LGBT peers, and not a day goes by where he is not inspired to awaken the senses of the masses to the misconception of the LGBT collective.
Wong’s commitment to his calling centers on the beautiful tales of the people that inspired him. This sparked an awakening to his life-long passion of directing and producing his own film. His focus, the diverse culture of the mystically misunderstood world LGBT community. The challenges they face on a daily basis, the rights that they do not get to enjoy and the judgments carried out by their indulgences. Wong’s continuous vision of uplifting the LGBT community rings true to the emergence of one of the most identified and celebrated LGBT Queens, Kevin Balot. As few would only regard to Wong as the man who molded the icon that is Miss International Queen, Kevin Balot today.
Wong is now recognized as one of the first highest paid film and TV fashion stylists. Solidifying this claim is his track record of impeccable work with Ai-Ai delas Alas, who then recognized his brilliance in styling that led him to personally style her in all her projects creating a lasting bond with the veteran actress, which is now going seven years strong. His craft and genuineness as a person shines through paving the way for meaningful working relationships with top caliber actresses like, Aiko Melendez and the Diamond Star; Maricel Soriano — to whom he shares more than just a good relationship but takes on similar tastes in fashion and lifestyle. Wong’s match-made friendship in heaven with the renowned actress was meant to happen as both of them share the same meticulous and minimalistic demeanor, a similarity that led to a strong and lasting relationship. This feat, however, will not be possible if not for his first big break in the primetime teleserye, My Binondo Girl starring Kim Chiu. MBG played an important role to the betterment of his career paving the way to more projects which he vicariously veered away from and istantaneously centered his talents in the film business. Many would agree that Wong’s experience in the industry as a fashion stylist and costume designer is unparalleled. This rings true until this day as he is still one of the top-of-mind choice of powerhouse producers and directors in Star Cinema and Viva Films in the names of Lea Calmerin, Hermie Go, and the late Wenn Deramas.
The late director brought the biggest impact to his life as one of the most genuinely passionate persons he had the pleasure of working with. In a series of heavy filming days, things pass by in an uneventful blurry second. This realization has never been truer on the sorrow he felt on the passing of Direk Wenn. Only those who are inside the circle can attest to the fondness of Wenn to Wong’s brand of work in the set, as he is the first person who recognized and uttered the words, “Magaling ka, Wong.” An ultimate affirmation anyone would wish at any day, especially coming from the critically acclaimed director. Every day brings its own brand of sorrow and regret. These encounters enable us to power through each struggle and carry out the strength to move forward. And sometimes, it takes you back to your happiest of days. 6 years after Wong and Kim Chiu first worked together, the universe conspired to make this happen as he signs a movie project with renowned film director, Chito Roño for Ghost Bride. And, as the stars aligns it shines brighter now, more than ever, as Wong will once again work on a Metro Manila Film Festival entry starring Vice Ganda, where he will be styling Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach— his MMFF comeback since Direk Wenn’s passing.
Mainstream success is oftentimes the deterrent of pursuing passions, and no one is ever wiser. However, when you bear the belief of having your dreams bigger than you, you don’t lose touch of the big picture. On the set at the filming of Past Tense back in 2014, on an encounter only fate can pull off, Wong at 27 year of age saw Olivia Lamasan in action—subbing for Mae Cruz-Alviar to direct a heavy scene with Richard Yap and Ai-Ai delas Alas. A common occurrence in the filming industry but not for Wong, this moment with Olivia was meant to happen for a reason. In that short amount of minutes, he was taken aback by Olivia’s precise brilliance on set. Right there and then, he was taken ten years back and he was 17 again. A 17-year-old kid dreaming of making his own film, creating and sharing stories with a higher purpose than to entertain. 17 years young and already working on the four panels of a pageant stage, dreaming to see his own film on the four sides of the screen. While most will call it luck that he was in the right place at the right time, Wong calls it God’s work. He strongly believes in his affinity with Him that allowed him to be at the exact moment and place as Olivia— this is the time to act on his dreams. Heeding His signs, Wong immediately signed up at the Asia Pacific Film Institute to start his journey in becoming first-rate film director.
To be able to witness the wonders of life is a truly amazing feat. But, to share these wonders with a vision is a challenge only given to a few. Everyone has a story to tell. Each far different from the other yet shares the same heart. When you hear stories worth telling, when you see people deserving of applause rather than ridicule, you take it upon yourself to tell these stories when everybody else chooses not to. Foursides Films shares the story of a once young man turned great, through time, through defeat, through stories, through passions, with a vision and point of view.