Quezon City, Feb. 27, 2002 (STAR)) - FUNFARE by Ricardo F. Lo - When it rains – that is, whether you’re talking about good fortune or bad falls – it really, really pours. And how!

In showbiz, there’s a belief (almost a superstition) that bad luck comes in threes. Tell that to Alma Moreno and she’ll say, "Even more!"

Last year, Alma – now officially former First Lady of Parañaque City – was diagnosed to be suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (an untreatable and debilitating disease) and before the year was over, her love son Vandolph (by Dolphy) nearly died in a car accident. A few weeks ago, her 12-year marriage to Parañaque City Mayor Joey Marquez crumbled, with Alma being accused of having a young lover (which Alma denied vehemently on national televison, con todo tears). Strike 3? Brace yourselves: Over the weekend, Alma’s 82-year-old mother, fondly called Mama Jean in showbiz circles, died of a stroke (she was aided by a pacemaker for 10 years).

As Alma cried again on national television, "Diyos ko, tama na po ang mga pagsubok na ’to!"

Is the light visible at the end of the tunnel? Is a silver lining emerging from behind thick clouds? Will the sun finally shine in Alma’s heavily-raining world?

Not quite – yet.

The other night, we condoled with Alma at the Trinity Memorial Chapels (in Parañaque City) where Mama Jean’s wake is being held. While viewing Mama Jean inside her silver-colored coffin, looking very beautiful (mestiza features and all) as though she were only sleeping, we asked Alma if a reconciliation with Joey is still possible. Alma looked at her Mom’s smiling face (did she carry with her, as Alma must have prayed, the heavy load on Alma’s shoulder that’s why she seemed to be smiling, resting in eternal peace?) and whispered, "Only God knows. Ipagdasal n’yo!"

Joey has been beside Alma in her time of grief and Alma said she’s thankful to him for it. "Close siya sa Mama ko," she said. Would Mama Jean’s death pave the way for Alma and Joey’s reconciliation? Alma faintly smiled and simply took another loving look at her Mama. "Ipagdasal n’yo na lang!" Simply put, Alma isn’t closing the door to that possibility.

Unfortunately, Joey seems to be determined to make official and irrevocable their separation. Joey was supposed to file his petition for the annulment of their marriage but he decided to delay the filing in deference to Mama Jean who was in the hospital slipping into coma that day, dying the next day.

"Joey will file the petition," said a Funfare DPA. "It’s only a matter of time. Among others, he’s asking the court for the custody of their children (Yeoj, Win-wyn, Vittorio Joey and adopted child MM). As far as Joey is concerned, he and Alma have reached the point of no return."

Alma has been saying that Mama Jean was her security blanket, her great source of moral support and strength, and friends have been telling Alma to whisper to her Mama to bring with her all the problems and the bad luck and the misfortunes hounding her these past many months.

Our condolences to Alma and her family. We’re praying that as her Mama Jean rests in peace, Alma herself may find peace on earth – even without Joey.

Second choices oftentimes better choices

Scratch showbiz history and you’ll discover that second choices almost always turn out to be the better choices. Bembol Roco was the second choice (original choice was the late Jay Ilagan) for the lead role in the classic Lino Brocka social drama Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag and, as we all know, Bembol turned in such a great performance that even if you watch Maynila for the tenth time, he’s still very good.

There were many others, including Vilma Santos for Celso Ad. Castillo’s Burlesk Queen (first choice was Lorna Tolentino) and Gina Alajar for Laurice Guillen’s Salome (first choice was Alma Moreno). And there’s, of course, Carlo Muñoz, "Billy" no less in the PLDT commercial, who was a second choice (replacing Piolo Pascual) as the young Armando Goyena in Chito Roño’s Yamashita: The Tiger’s Treasure, Best Picture winner in last December’s Metro Filmfest.

We’d never know how Piolo would have played the role but the whole world saw that Carlo did his very best.

"I was aware that I was a second choice," said Carlo, "so I worked double time. Mas lalo akong na-challenge. Piolo Pascual is Piolo Pascual so I psyched myself into really, really doing my best."

The result was, well, more than satisfactory. Somebody told Funfare that Carlo lost "by only two points" to Ronnie Lazaro for the Best Supporting Actor plum in the 2001 Metro Filmfest (Lazaro got it for his role as a Muslim rebel in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Bagong Buwan). But it’s all right. Carlo’s "vindication" comes three-fold with his nomination as Best Supporting Actor (still for Yamashita) in the Urian Awards (slated in May) and as New Male Star of the Year in the Philippine Movie Press Club’s Star Awards for Movies (slated for March 9).

In fact, Carlo was also cited as New Actor of the Year at this year’s Guillermo Mendoza Foundation Memorial Awards something.

Yamashita was among the blessings that poured into Carlo’s life last year, making him change his mind about quitting showbiz and looking for the proverbial greener pasture in the States. The good breaks were kicked off by the PLDT offer to star in the series of Grasya commercials. Besides Regal Films’ Yamashita, Carlo was in two other movies last year, Maverick Films’ Love Text (as one of Judy Ann Santos’ leading men) and Star Cinema’s Narinig Mo Na Ba ang L8est? (with Aga Muhlach and Joyce Jimenez).

In his latest movie, Star Cinema’s Got 2 Believe, Carlo is cast as Claudine Barretto’s business partner who marries Claudine’s best friend (Nikki Valdez).

As you must have noticed, Carlo is getting bigger – better? – roles outside of his home studio (he plays a "minor" role in the ABS-CBN soap Pangako Sa’yo) where "connection," not so much talent and ability, rules the game. With so many discoveries, aspirants and hopefuls crawling in the company, you need the most influential and the strongest "backer" to get that much-needed break. It’s "know-who" that seems to count, yes, and not "know-how."

"I’m forever thankful to ABS-CBN and to Star Cinema for giving me all the chances," said Carlo who was launched as a member of Talent Center’s Star Circle 7. "It’s my home and home is where the heart is, di ba?"

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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