DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Like many married couples, Ruben and Janet Nepales are a bit competitive with each other. Unlike many married couples, they admit it.
That comes with the territory. The Nepales, who have lived in the Grand Tower Apartments on Bunker Hill for five years, are both entertainment reporters covering Hollywood, but for competing newspapers in their native Philippines. They walk the same red carpets, often interview the same movie stars and regularly attend Hollywood premieres and film festivals.
But that’s where the camaraderie ends.
“My paper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, is the number one newspaper in the Philippines,” Ruben said proudly during a joint interview with his wife of 27 years.
“We’re number two but it’s OK, because we try harder,” Janet quickly countered.
Janet, who reports for the Manila Bulletin, and Ruben have a lot that binds them together. In addition to their chosen field, they are both members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization best known for putting on the Golden Globe awards. The couple raised two daughters in the San Fernando Valley before moving to Downtown Los Angeles.
They are both well-respected and honored journalists, in the United States and their native land. Their Downtown home is filled with the plaques and other awards they have earned over approximately 30 years in the field.
Another thing they have in common is a very busy schedule. They both write about actors, films and in particular about Filipinos in the entertainment industry. It’s an important beat, since the Philippines is “Hollywood crazy,” Ruben said.
Ruben pens three columns a week dubbed “Only IN Hollywood” for the Inquirer. He is also a contributing editor for Balikbayan, a magazine published for Filipino expats in the United States and other parts of the world. In 2012 he published the book My Filipino Connection: The Philippines in Hollywood.
Ruben is also the first Filipino member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the Golden Globe Awards. He currently serves as chairman of the board of directors.
Janet also writes a weekly column, the “Hollywood Bulletin” for the Manila Bulletin. Like Ruben she has a side gig, authoring the column “Dateline: Hollywood” for Philippine News, a Filipino-American newspaper published in the U.S. She has a third column, “Pinay in Hollywood” for FemaleNetwork.com, a Philippine website.
Her resume doesn’t end there. Janet is an entertainment correspondent for GMA-7, a television network based in the Philippines, and she is the first and still only Filipina member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization has only about 90 members, representing approximately 55 countries).
“They have a great following,” said Prosy Delacruz, a columnist at the Filipino-American newspaper The Asian Journal who has known the couple for about five years. “There’s a healthy respect between them. He respects her ability as a writer and she respects his.”
Their separate Facebook pages offer a view of their reach in Hollywood.
Janet’s page features pictures taken during award shows with her arm around celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Bradley Cooper, Joaquin Phoenix and James Franco.
Ruben’s page shows him with the cast of “Glee,” Christopher Walken and Spike Lee.
“There are a lot of people who follow their posts on Facebook and Twitter,” Delacruz said.
Love at Second Sight
Ruben and Janet met in 1976 while they were both journalism students at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. They worked on the school paper together and Ruben liked Janet right away. It took her a little longer to warm up to him.
When they took a class picture, Ruben decided to put his arm around Janet. She thought he was being “fresh,” she said.
“She didn’t like me because she said I looked like a nerd,” he said.
She quickly agrees.
“Yes, he was so skinny,” she said as they both laughed.
After college they worked as journalists in the Philippines. They met again a couple of years later at a press conference for singer Paul Williams. They soon began dating.
Ruben came to the United States in 1985 with his family and Janet followed a month later. They lived in a small apartment in Downtown before getting married that same year and moving to the Valley. There they raised their daughters, Bianca Nicole, who works as a special education teacher, and Rafaella Angelica, a digital animation senior at the Art Institute of Los Angeles-Santa Monica.
They came back to Downtown a few years ago, they said, because they had always enjoyed the community and liked the way it had recently become more active.
While they were both well-known entertainment journalists in the Philippines, it was more difficult finding jobs in Los Angeles, since many local newspapers wanted reporters with experience in the region. Still, they persevered, and managed to get assignments covering junkets and premieres from Philippines-based film companies.
Eventually that work paid off and they landed the gigs with the two largest newspapers in the Philippines. Ruben has writing for the Inquirer since 1992. Janet has been working for the Bulletin since the early 1990s as well.
Today the couple shares many of the same sources, who often send emails to each of them with story tips. Most of the time they find a way to both deliver something unique to their papers.
“As long as both of us get it first before other journalists, it doesn’t really matter,” Janet said.
Delacruz said they’ve found a way to work well together while still being competitive journalists.
“At events she will take a different angle,” Delacruz said. “She may go for fashion or food. He may cover the Filipino connection.”
Of course, they’re still competitors, and that means sometimes one scoops the other, though even then, they usually manage to find angles that work for each other.
For example, Ruben recently got a tip about a young Filipino-American actor named Luke Ganalon who starred in the movie Bless Me, Ultima, an adaptation of a novel by Mexican-American writer Rudolfo Anaya. Ganalon’s great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in the early 1900s, and that was the connection Ruben needed for his piece.
“I quietly worked on that story first,” he said. “Then when it came out she was able to do the story.”
“And I interviewed the father, which he didn’t,” Janet added.
But when the animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift was released in 2012, Janet got the jump on Ruben.
“I went to the East Coast junket and I found out there was a Filipino animator. So I did the story on him,” she said.
Ruben’s story on the animator followed Janet’s.
Having the same career has been good on a professional and personal level, the couple agrees.
“We go to the same things,” Ruben said. “We have the same interests so we don’t drift apart.”
“It keeps you on your toes a lot too, because you’re living with your competition,” Janet chimed in.
They have also competed when it comes to awards.
Ruben and Janet were both nominated in the best columnist category for the Los Angeles Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award last year. He finished third, while she took fourth.
“I’m happy for him,” Janet said. “His victories are my victories too.”
However, when Janet was a finalist for the prize, the Manila Bulletin ran a front page story about the news.
“Every time I get into the finals, they put me on the front page. His paper doesn’t do it,” she joked.
“I tell her that my paper is so blasé with getting so many awards,” Ruben countered.
“They’re waiting for him to win first,” she quipped back.
The competition continues.
Contact Richard Guzmán at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Los Angeles Downtown News.