CEBU CITY, Philippines - Mario Maurer and Baifern Pimchanok, Thai celebrities who paid their Cebuano fans a visit recently, are out to prove that more than just pretty faces, they are also promoters of social change.
Case in point: Baifern is supporting Thailand-based women's rights organisations in their campaign for stronger law enforcement to protect Thai women from abuse.
Baifern reported that other Thai celebrities have started getting involved. "We have to do something," Baifern said through an interpreter during a press con organised by local clothing brand Penshoppe at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort.
Mario works with the humanitarian aid organisation World Vision International to provide education for less-fortunate children across Asia.
Mario and Baifern said they're "very blessed," and thus felt the need to give back. Baifern regularly visits the orphanages she supports. "I feel good when I see that the children are genuinely happy," she said.
Baifern, 21, said she still considered herself "ordinary and imperfect."
"I do whatever I can to help," said Mario, who spoke in fluent English. "At one point, I even walked around carrying a donation box.
People were encouraged to give. They just wanted photos to be taken with me. I use [my fame] to get the help that other people need."
Asked whether he found it challenging being a role model to the youth, the 25-year-old actor replied: "It's not difficult at all. I just try to be myself."
Mario said he was content with being a gas boy at the family-owned gas station before show biz beckoned. "One day, someone saw me and cast me for commercials … I'm really serious about my craft now."
Part-German, Mario began as a print ad model at 16. He is best known for his performance in the 2007 film "The Love of Siam." He first worked with Baifern in the 2010 rom-com "Crazy Little Thing Called Love (First Love)."
Mario recalled that collaboration: "There was this scene where she was supposed to fall into a swimming pool and cry. I looked into her eyes and saw her crying, not Baifern, but the character Nam. She really embraced her character."
Baifern pointed out that Mario was already a big star when they did "First Love." She didn't expect that he'd be "very nice, helpful and supportive."
For Mario, the toughest part of being an actor was not having enough time for himself. "I had a hard time coping with this in the beginning, probably because I was only 18 and immature. I didn't like being stopped for picture-taking when I was just hanging out with friends at the mall, for instance. I now understand [the demands of my work as an actor]."
Now that she's a celebrity, Baifern said she couldn't go out wearing just anything. She now has to pay more attention to dressing up and looking nice.
The two celebrities recently flew to Manila for the first leg of the event "#PenshoppeFanCon2014."
They later went to Ayala Center Cebu's The Terraces, where they were greeted by hundreds of screaming Cebuano supporters. The fans participated in games, and the winners got a photo op with them.
Can't put in words
Baifern said the reaction to their visit was unexpected. She said she was aware of how popular their movie was in many countries, including the Philippines, but that the support she and Mario got from their fans in Manila and Cebu was really surprising. "You can't explain it in words. I'm impressed and very thankful for that support."
Mario said even his best friend, who is half-Filipino, never thought Mario would be famous in his home country. "I told [my friend] that he should come with me on my next visit so he'd see. Every time I'm here, I get the warmest welcome from fans. They even greet me at the airport," said Mario.