Quezon City, Jan. 20, 2002 - (STAR) by Edu Jarque - Shirley Gorospe, the original balikbayan beauty queen, a sought-after fashion model and cover girl who became one of filmdom’s most glamorous stars, and husband Zaldy Zhornack, he with a name that sounds like a made-to-order silver screen monicker, are back home at last.

They were sorely missed for over a quarter of a century while they resided in Los Angeles and were the toasts of the Filipino-American communities all over the United States.

Today, Shirley and Zaldy, married for 42 years, parents of two and grandparents of one are living a life some only dream of.

Ageless Shirley bakes regularly, continuously dabbles in arts and crafts and is forever in the garden–that is, if she is not on the golf course.

"I love working with my hands. I really feel good whenever I create something," she says. "You should try my Amaretto Cake – it may look simple, but it tastes heavenly," she continues. "My cake," she announces proudly, "won over 50 others during a cooking competition in Alabang."

Meanwhile, Zaldy, the charmer who has the distinction of being the first male ever on the cover of the prestigious Weekly Women’s Magazine, constantly travels all over the islands playing golf.

"This is my ultimate passion. And to be able to do it whenever you desire–oh, come on, what more can you ask for," he declares.

One pleasant weekend afternoon, we sat together at their artistically-decorated patio overlooking a lush garden of bushes, hedges and trees of the greenest green and reminisced our days in Los Angeles where I was assigned as Tourism Attaché promoting our islands in the West Coast of the United States of America and Canada, Central and South America. And naturally we talked on travel. Please listen to the rest of our conversation.

Philippine STAR: What do you remember most of your first trip abroad?

Shirley Gorospe: I was born in Hawaii and later moved to Los Angeles, so my first trip abroad was to Manila in 1956. I had just won the title Miss Philippines of California and one of the prizes was a visit to the mother country. The flight was on Northwest Orient Airlines via Anchorage, Alaska and Tokyo, Japan for refueling. If I recall correctly, it took all of 36 hours. Can you imagine being on a flight that long? I sleep like a baby on airplanes so all I did was eat and sleep and sleep and eat. Upon arrival in Manila my relatives I have never encountered before, members of the press and well wishers with flowers met us. What a reception! I was just 17 and traveling alone. It was a beautiful, wonderful experience. Oh yes, let me tell you this is when I met Zaldy Zhornack, the movie actor. Little did I know he would be my future husband.

Zaldy Zhornack: The year was 1958. The final destination was Los Angeles, California. Though I must admit I was excited, I was horribly scared, as in petrified for it was my first airplane ride ever. Crossing the Pacific Ocean seemed like forever. I was a complete wreck! In total tatters! Thinking about it today makes me really wonder why and how I didn’t suffer a heart attack right there and then. But once my feet touched the ground, I was whole again. Within a few days, we started shooting for the film entitled The Sweethearts as the love interest of the beauty titleholder, Shirley Gorospe. And the rest as they would always say is history.

What won’t you leave home without?

Zaldy: Even before I became an actor and till the present, I can’t leave home without my rosary, which I have in my wallet.

Shirley: My little Sto. Niño which I constantly carry in my bag together with some favorites, say sentimental pictures of my family.

Name your favorite city abroad.

Shirley: Zaldy and I love Rome. It’s our all-time favorite. Rome is simply beyond compare, utterly unbeatable. It’s historically rich and architecturally beautiful. Most importantly, we both feel so very close to God whenever we are in the city. It’s truly more than just a feel good place.

What is the first thing you do upon checking in at a hotel?

Shirley: Don’t laugh now, but I automatically generously spray the entire bathroom with Lysol. You may call it ritual. Then I check the closets and systematically check everything else if it works – the air-conditioning or perhaps the heater, the...

Zaldy: While Shirley is busy doing her "housekeeping rounds," I try to relax – having just survived the flight and everything that goes with it – on a chair, on a sofa or a bed and slowly study from whatever reading material is available in the room on where to go and what’s good to eat.

What do you consider a must-do activity in every foreign city that you visit?

Shirley: Visit as many Catholic churches as I possibly can and pray for my three wishes in every single one of them.

Zaldy: I make it a point to visit its most famous landmarks or experience activities the place is known for.

What is your favorite spot in the Philippines?

Shirley: Boracay. It’s paradise for me. Give me a hammock and the sea breeze and I could live there forever. I wonder, is this because my zodiac sign is Cancer?

Zaldy: I could not agree with Shirley more on the choice. But let’s not forget, golf is available on the island and for me that’s a great big plus.

What do you miss most when you’re away from home?

Shirley: I miss my family. I miss my home – most especially my bathroom.

Zaldy: My bed – that’s without a doubt.

What is the best travel advice you were given?

Shirley: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Zaldy: Keep all your traveling documents in a safe place. Or else, be ready for nightmares of all kinds.

Describe your most memorable trip.

Zaldy: I am certain that Shirley will agree with me that it has to be our very first trip to Rome. It was a dream holiday – memorable in every possible way.

Shirley: (Smiles. Nods in agreement. Smiles.)

Let’s talk favorites now. Favorite restaurant?

Shirley: Benihana’s at Encino, California. The food is ever so delicious and simply can’t fault the service. It’s just wonderful.

Zaldy: Lawry’s Prime Rib in Los Angeles. It has remained consistently excellent for many years.

Favorite museum? And if you could take home a piece of art, which one would it be?

Shirley: The Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. Can you imagine having Francisco Goya’s "The Naked Maja" at home?

Zaldy: The Metropolitan Art Museum in New York. I have no favorite work of art. It changes as I travel through the years.

Favorite hotel or resort?

Shirley: There is this unbelievable resort on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. I am so sorry but I can’t seem to recall its name just now. It’s sitting on a cliff overlooking the most incredible view of the ocean. Down below is a beautiful, beautiful beach. And you take a glass elevator to get there. It’s all so very dramatic. The service? Impeccable!

Zaldy: I agree. That place – I have been trying to remember the name – is all and more what Shirley just described. And let me tell you about the golf course. But I am afraid you won’t have the time.

Favorite landmark?

Zaldy: I would say La Fontana de Trevi in Rome. If you think of it, it is tucked in a corner and yet it’s so magnificent. It stuns you. Nothing prepares you for it.

Shirley: My choice, I think, would be the Coloseum, also in Rome. It was spectacular to see it for the first time. I could picture the gladiators fighting for their lives while the people of Rome cheered.

Favorite musical?

Zaldy: Oh, Calcutta for many various reasons.

Shirley: The King and I with Yul Bryner. Only he could play the title role to perfection. Seeing him encouraged me to go to Broadway where I hoped to work my way up. However my calling was Manila. I never regretted such a decision.

Favorite store?

Shirley: Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, California. They have everything you need. Should they not have what you wish to purchase, they will obtain it for you – would you believe even an elephant – without any fuss.

Zaldy: The Gucci shop also in Beverly Hills. But that was 40 pounds ago (laughs).

Name a movie you could see over and over again.

Shirley: Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Zaldy: Somebody Up There Likes Me starring Paul Newman.

Name a book you would recommend others to read.

Shirley: A Woman Named Jackie by C. David Heymann and Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins.

Zaldy: No particular book comes to mind.

Who would you like to bump into – dead or alive – during your travels?

Shirley: J.F. Kennedy, Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe.

Zaldy: Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and James Dean.

Who is your most ideal traveling companion?

Shirley: I guess, it would have to be Zaldy. We’ve always traveled together and always have fun.

Zaldy: My wife Shirley. She is on top of my list. No one comes a close second.

Name an event in the world you would like to participate in.

Shirley: The L.P.G.A. Golf Tournament.

Zaldy: The World Shoot Competition.

What are your pasalubongs – inbound and outbound?

Shirley: Zaldy and I always bring local handicrafts and goodies. On our return, we have See’s candies.

Let’s fill in the blanks. Where in the world ...only in the Philippines.

Shirley: Where in the world, would garbage be dumped right in the middle of a street?

Zaldy: Where in the world would you find all traffic lights to be green – or so it seems since no one neither slows down for yellow nor stops for red – only in the Philippines.

Name a city you have never visited but would like to someday.

Shirley: Cairo.

Zaldy: New Delhi.

Name a country you wish to explore.

Shirley: Egypt – it’s the Egyptian in me.

Zaldy: India.

What is the best part of travel?

Zaldy: Shirley and I have discussed this before. And it’s coming home – no matter how great the trip, the holiday has been.

What would you say then is the worst part of travel?

Shirley: The long lines at the check-in counters.

Zaldy: The time one spends at the carousel to claim the luggage.

If you could reside anywhere in the world, aside from the Philippines, where would it be?

Shirley: Hawaii, the big island.

Zaldy: Anywhere – the place does not matter as long as my family is with me.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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