Monday, January 23, 2006

Sunny Days for Sharon

It is an unusual afternoon at the usually serene Pangilinan residence somewhere in the suburbs. The dining room is bustling with activity and the table overflows with food. Including three cakes, brewed coffee and chamomile tea.
And there is one less jokester today. Megastar- businesswomen Sharon Cuneta's husband, lawyer Francis "Kiko" Panginan is upstairs nursing a bum tummy, with hot congee brought by his solicitous mother-in-law.
The tea party is charged up, nonetheless. What with three excited women gabbing away - Elaine Cuneta, Sharon, and her daughter KC.
"This is what we do when Mommy comes by," Sharon says. We just talk and laugh, and laugh and talk. Elaine sits at the head of t he 14-seat formal dining table (fashioned of an antique slab of wood from France), the better to look out to the pool, garden, and guesthouse, just outside the sliding glass doors.
"This spot relaxes me," Elaine explains. "It's like being really far from Manila." With her gaze now she follows KC, who has excused herself. "She's so grown up," she sighs.
"I was just telling Mom," Sharon interrupts, "how great I feel having a teen-aged daughter, I can now relate to her more as a friend." Once a foreign stewardess asked if they were sisters. Sharon was thrilled: now they call each other "Sis."
And now she understands Elaine better, years after the peak in what she calls, a "love-hate" relationship. "We are both very headstrong," Sharon says, "and sometimes given to emotion. When I was a child it was fine, but in my teens I became secretive."
Having sorted out "things," she chooses to remember only the fun parts now, like weekends in Tali Beach, and bicyicle rides in Burnham Park. "Dad - the former Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta - was strict but, like Elaine, made sure the children had rich experiences to remember."
Once when she was in the fourth grade, her father pulled her out of school in the middle of the year to go on a 15-day tour of Europe. "She will learn more from this trip than in the classroom," he had insisted. This was how at age ten, Sharon first saw the Mona Lisa.
Elaine had her full share as well, exposing her daughter to the arts, Sharon was enrolled in all requisite extra-curricular activities for young girls in high society - Hawaiian and Tahitian dance, piano and singing lessons. She had a secret desire, too. "I was telling KC recently," Sharon relates, "that when the Guadalupe Theater was newly opened, my brother Chet took me there to watch Enter the Dragon. I was so fascinated with kung fu. I seriously considered learning it. I still wish I had done that."
The same well-rounded youth is what Sharon works at giving KC. Thus the girl is a fearless swimmer, a bemedalled figure-skater, and a soccer and la crose player in Boston. Mom Sharon reveals she can also play musical instruments by ear and has shown great interest and taken in composing songs.
She is a strict parent, Sharon admits, but Kiko is even more particular about rules. "Yup," KC agrees, "that's my mom. She is sometimes torn between being a parent and being a friend. But Daddy is consistent and really more into details. He shows me the normal side of life, gives me practical advice. Mom shows me all the fun stuff, and wants me to learn by experience."
"Sometimes I still think of her as a baby," Sharon admits.
"Her wish is that KC marries someone who lives nearby," Elaine volunteers.
"I'd be glad to build them a house here," Sharon replies, then turns to her daughter, "Kays, when did I say I would allow you to get married?"
"When I'm thirty-two," KC says flatly.
"Your grandchildren would all be menopause babies," Elaine chortles.
Sharon, the Megastar revels in such blissful episodes of normalcy as this exchange. "No one treats her like a star at home," Elaine says.
KC butts in laughing, "Otherwise we'd all go crazy."
"If I ask her to get me the fish sauce, she will do it," Elaine says to illustrate. The best thing the family can do for Sharon, she beleievs is to keep her grounded.

A Matter of Taste
"Welcome to Megamall," Sharon jests as she shows off her dressing room. This is no ordinary walk-in closet. It's like a his and hers emporium filled with Kiko's dashing suits and her designer gowns. Its easy to see they share the same impeccable taste in clothes.
Another feast for the eyes are the paintings all over the house that sport some of the most renowned names in Philippine art. She, who was an awed visitor to the Louvre as a girl, has evolved into someone staunchly partial to Filipino painters like Malang, Modesto, Vitalis, Amorsolo, Juan Luna. Her collection inspires reverence, like the house itself that is a monument to hard work as much as to wedded bliss.
"I built this house for my daughter and forthcoming children." Sharon announces. "This is where Kiko and I hope to enjoy many happy moments as a family." It is her sanctuary," she says. "All of my things are here, all the colours that I like."
Kiko calls it his refuge. "We're certified homebodies," he says.
The dominant colour is yellow. "I've never been really keen on yellow," Sharon confesses, "but I feel overdosed on peach, pink and other pastel in my younger years. When we lived in the States for a while. I saw all the wonderful shades of yellow. And since I've always loved blue, the living room and master's bedroom are in yellow and blue."
Everyone agrees that the house is perfectly relaxing just as it was intended. The Pangilinans are glad that master architect Ramon Antonio understood them "splendidly."
"It's like a resort," Kiko says, "sometimes we just sit in the garden at night, talking about how our day went." But Sharon's dream is a home in the country, in the middle of a farm, with lots of wind and open spaces.
The present lawn by the pool with a vanishing edge, Sharon says, is going to be an English garden, with roses and other spring flowers. "I've always loved flowers and trees." The location of the house has been carefully picked to indulge this passion just one of the lessons Sharon learned from her dad. "He told me location is very important when buying property."
Pablo Cuneta taught his daughter excellent business sense. "I grew up in such an environment that nurtured natural skills." It also made her want to master everything that daunts her, like the stock market, and accounting. She has proven her mettle in real estate. Now as founder and CEO of Sharon Inc., she has gone into television production. With Numbers Entertainment, she produced her Boston documentary, A Place Called Home, and Fanny Serrano's hairstyle show on cable television, It's a Fanny Day. She has also launched her new record label, Mega Music, with not just one, but two albums.

Miss Organised
Even while being dolled up for work every week at ABS-CBN by trusted stylist Fanny Serrano, Sharon makes productive use of the lull by reading several books on diverse subjects simultaneously.
In a single evening she browsed through The Music Industry Book, Memoirs of a Geisha, Life and Death in Shanghai, Mitigating Circumstances, Falling Leaves, Always Hiding, and Guide to Packing. On the side, she is also a crossword puzzle wiz and is known to have finished one in five minutes.
"I have all these Organise Yourself books," she laughs, "that my sister-in-law Angeli wife of Gary Valenciano calls me now Miss Organised. I can't help it. I don't want to forget anything, like, I am going on a trip, have I photocopied my passport.
A secret here: she cannot travel light, I have to bring my Bible, my books, my pencil case, my laptop they make up my security blanket."
In her new home she has an attic where she houses all the memorabilia she has accumulated through two decades of a stellar career in show business. Nealty arranged are old movie posters, video cassettes of TV shows, glittery costumes, and matching shoes. (But one corner is devoted to her collection of Idiot's Guide Business Books.)
It seems she has brought into this abode all her life's loves, triumphs, and feelings. "No," she muses. "All the feelings belonged in my Twin Towers unit. That was my love of a place. When I first moved in after my separation from actor Gabby Concepcion, I had no furniture. I filled it up, slowly. I went through a lot there. I grew up, became my own woman, there. When I said goodbye to that house, it hurt."
In the same way that Paraiso Street in Dasmarinas Village was the cradle of her happy childhood Sharon feels her home with Kiko is "my new beginning."

No comments: