She was a ray of sunshine in a sea of questionable parties, screaming protesters, tales of corruption, and sex videos.
Two people filmed 27-year-old Cheridel Alejandrino inside an elevator at SM Olongapo doing what she usually does—pushing buttons, taking people where they needed to go and making customers laugh along the way. The clips were uploaded on YouTube and, less than a week and over 800,000 views later, SM’s elevator girl became a viral sensation.
People were charmed. And so were we.
We wanted to meet Cheridel and were willing to travel to Olongapo to do it. But when we heard that she would be at SM Mall of Asia last Tuesday for a courtesy call at SM’s head office, we jumped at the chance to see her.
“Artista ka na ha,” we teased her as she walked into the coffee shop where we sat down for a chat.
“Hindi po, konti lang,” she said with a smile.
“What’s your stage name?” we asked.
“Cherry, like a prutas, like a virgin,” she said, laughing.
Cherry had originally wanted to be a saleslady. She had a brief stint at Farmers Plaza in Cubao one December and wanted to do it again. But she missed the cutoff age for applicants by a year.
Instead, in July 2012, her agency, Aresun Trading and Manpower Services, got her a job as a break-time reliever of the restroom and elevator attendants at SM Olongapo. When employees went on their breaks, she would step in, cleaning the restrooms and operating the elevators with enthusiasm.
“Sa CR, I was always singing para hindi ako ma-stress. Minsan kasi nalilimutan ng mga customers mag-flush. Customer is always right so ’yun, kaysa ma-stress ako sa marumi, I would be singing habang nagma-mop,” Cherry said, breaking into her version of Hotdog’s “Annie Batungbakal”: “Sa umaga, dispatsadora, sa gabi … naglalaba.”
When she wasn’t in the restrooms or the elevators, she would deliver memos from the admin office to the mall’s tenants. That’s how she managed to memorize the layout of SM Olongapo, she said.
Eventually, she became a day-off reliever of the elevator attendants. That was what she was doing the day she was caught on video.
“Yes po, ma’am, sir, welcome to SM. What floor po?” she greeted customers as they walked in. And because customers always asked her where certain stores were, she decided to start reciting the mall directory in her unique singsong way while traveling between floors. “We’re now on ground floor, SM Supermarket, Watson, BDO, National Book Store, Brownies and Bibingkinitan, China Bank, Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich and Pizza Hut. May Koolstix pa and Peanut World, thank you. ’Yung iba po, ’pag ’di na masabi, wala nang time. Pero if ever magtatanong kayo, masasagot ko naman.”
Long before she became a YouTube hit, Cherry was already a celebrity of sorts at SM Olongapo, after customers took notice of her cheerfulness and dedication. Inside the elevator, they ask her to sing. They even make requests. “’Yung pinapakanta nila ‘Pusong Bato’ eh. At dahil paborito ko si Regine, (sings) ‘Ang pangarap ko’y nagmula sa’yo / sa ’yong ganda ang puso’y di makalimot / dadalhin kita sa aking elevator / sasakay kita hanggang fifth floor to ground floor.’ Tapos natatawa na sila. Minsan lumalabas sila nagkakanda-iyak sa tawa. Isang serbisyo lang naman po ito na nakapagpapaligaya so napaka-happy ko. I love my job very much.”
Customers have so much fun with her that some of them refuse to leave the elevator.
Sometimes, they even refuse to let her go on her breaks. She just tells them, “But ma’am, sir, I’m going to eat na, thank you.”
Some customers love her so much that they insist on giving her gifts. “Hindi po kami pwedeng tumanggap, pinipilit po nila at pinapaliwanag ko pong mabuti na ang serbisyo po namin as empleyado ng SM ay talagang free.”
One customer gave her a wallet while another gave her a pair of shoes. “Sabi po niya, ‘Bakit walang takong yung sapatos mo eh sila nakatakong?’ Sabi ko, ‘Pasensiya ka na, ma’am, wala akong pambili. ’Pag minsan, tipid-tipid din.’ Sabi niya, ‘I’ll give you. Kailan ba ang birthday mo?’ Ay ma’am, matagal pa, March 26.”
She was wearing the pair that day—pointy black pumps that she wears to work regularly.
It was also her customers who first told her about her YouTube video: “‘Congrats, sikat ka na.’ Sabi ko, ‘Agad-agad?’”
One of her regulars, a doctor, came by to visit. “Sabi niya, ‘Congratulations, ito na ’yung sinasabi namin sa’yo na sisikat ka.’”
One of the men who posted her video online returned to the mall to apologize. But she didn’t mind being filmed, she said. “Sabi ko, ‘Bakit kayo nagso-sorry? Wala po kayong dapat ika-sorry, ako pa nga dapat ’yung magpasalamat sa inyo. Kung ’di dahil sa inyo, hindi po ako makikilala sa ibang lugar.’”
SM has given Cherry recognition for her service. She said, “They’re so proud. Sila po mismo ’yung nagsabi sa akin at nagpakita nung video nung break ko. Sabi ko, ‘Talaga po, 21,000 views? What happened to me?’”
At first, her husband refused to believe her. “Sabi ko, ‘Trending na raw ’yung YouTube, kasi may nag-YouTube sa akin.’ Sabi niya, ‘Sus, baka niloloko ka lang.’ Tapos napanood niya sa ‘Bandila,’ nagulat siya. ’Yung baby ko nakita ako sa TV, tumawa siya.”
Since then, she has appeared on other shows like “Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho,” “Unang Hirit,” “Umagang Kay Ganda” and “Kape at Balita.” She has also done radio interviews. But her dream is to guest on “Eat Bulaga.” “Favorite ko po,” she said.
Her family has been supportive. “Sabi po nila salamat daw sa Panginoon na nabigyan ako ng ganitong talent at namana ko daw sa kanila ’yung ratatat.”
Because she’s at work all day and goes straight home to take care of her son Kyle Lawrence, who is turning 2 in September, she hasn’t had the chance to see her Facebook fan pages and the comments on her YouTube videos. “Kasi wala nga po me time. Hindi pa po ako nakapag-open ng personal Facebook ko.”
Cherry is even busier now. She’s no longer a day-off reliever; she has become a full-time elevator girl. “Lahat pong ito ay para sa anak ko at para sa pamilya ko. Kaya ko nga po ginagawa ito is para tumagal ako sa trabaho ko. I’m very proud na from CR to break-time reliever, natiyaga ko. Sabi ko sa mga katulad kong nagtrabaho sa CR, enjoy lang nila ang pagma-mop. ’Yung iba nanliliit sa trabaho nila kasi nasa CR. Pero no, dapat ipagmalaki nila. Basta mahalin mo lang ’yung trabaho mo, magtatagal ka. Ang matiyaga ay nagkakaroon ng nilaga. Tama naman eh. Ito na ’yun.”
She now has certificates of recognition from both her agency and SM hanging on the walls of her home. “Daig ko pa po ang tumanggap ng college diploma. Malaki man po ang pagkakaiba pero higit po ’yun talaga,” she said.
Since her video went viral, people have been visiting her in Olongapo, with some traveling from other cities. She said, “Kahapon, may dumating, sabi, ‘Ate, pa-picture naman kasi galing pa kami sa Manila, galing pa kami sa Makati, pinuntahan ka lang namin dito.’ Nung isang araw, isang pamilya naman, galing silang Pampanga.”
And people continue to wait in line to ride the elevator with her. She just tells them, “Yes, ma’am, sir, I’ll be back. Yes, 100 percent, I’ll be back. And I’m going up na, later, I’m going down.”
Even in Manila, wherever Cherry walked, people recognized her. Cherry said, “Sabi nila, ‘Ay, si YouTube girl.’ Ay, thank you. Nasa YouTube na me, nasa Mall of Asia me.”
As we chatted with her, people kept stopping in front of the coffee shop’s glass walls, waving at her and taking pictures. She smiled and waved back. “Sanay na po. Simula po nang umupo ako sa elevator, bini-video na po nila ako.”
Has she been signing autographs? “Sabi ko, bawal po ang ballpen, baka makasundot, kawawa naman ang masundot. Kasi sa elevator eh laging puno, what if magkatulakan, masundot sila habang nagsusulat ako, kawawa naman. Picture lang, thank you.”
Cherry, who once dreamt of flying to Japan to sing, has found her spotlight inside an elevator. “Since bata kasi, ’yun talaga pangarap ko, ang makapag-abroad para makatulong sa pamilya ko. Hindi ko lugar siguro, hindi po siguro ’yun ’yung binigay ng Panginoon sa akin. Pero napunta ako dito at ito na nga siguro ang hindi ko inaasahang pangyayari. Nagpapasalamat ako. I love my job,” she said for the nth time that day.
Now, when we walk into elevators, we kind of miss her.