Quezon City, April 15, 2002 (STAR) by Ricardo F. Lo - Even while the two-hour-delayed PR 103 flight to Manila was warming up for take-off at the Los Angeles airport runway Sunday evening last week, I still could see the certain sadness behind her smile and the unmistakable hopeful tone of her voice when she answered, "Do I want to go back to the Philippines? It’s really not for me to say or to decide. It’s all up to the people if they will take me back."

If her nearly three-year "forced vacation" in her native L.A. has done anything to Anjanette Abayari, it is, according to Anjanette, "to give me the peace and quiet I’ve long been looking for" and which, I may add, she never found in her more than seven years in showbiz. "Stardom has a way of making you forget many things; you can get carried away by it. Before, when I felt kind of hemmed in by the pressures of showbiz, all I had to do was hop into a plane and be with my family here in L.A. and then I would be in a totally different world, a very real world."

Anjanette caught up with me at the L.A. airport for a little chat. I was there for barely 48 hours for the Scorpion King press junket to interview The Rock (star of Scorpion King). Boy Abunda gave me Anjanette’s phone number in L.A. and thrice, we set an appointment but our schedules just didn’t jibe. When she called late Sunday afternoon (April 7), I was already on my way to the L.A. airport but Anjanette insisted, "I’ll meet you there." And she did.

The flight was full of familiar faces. I saw Kristine Garcia and her children at the Duty Free shop. I bumped into Quezon City Councilor and La Salle basketball team coach Franz Pumaren at the Chinese fast-food outlet at the mezzanine. When Anjanette arrived, alone, the three of us sat in a huddle. Sen. Serge Osmeña, limping due to gout, came after a while and joined us.

When I took Anjanette’s picture first with Franz and then with Serge, the Senator jokingly said, "O, baka ma-tsismis na naman ako!" obviously referring to that tabloid blind item about a Senator said to have sired a love child with a female staffer.

Anjanette was at the prime of her career when that Guam incident three or so years ago happened. As everybody knows, she was put on probation (which should be over by now) and on the Philippine Immigration blacklist, preventing her (she’s a US citizen) from coming back even if she wants to.

So what has she been doing in L.A. all this time?

"Practically nothing," said Anjanette who looked as sexy as ever. She said she maintained her figure with regular running and sit-ups. "I’ve been taking care of my two nieces, aged 5 and 10, my sister’s children. Every now and then, I do some modeling. I’ve also been trying to audition for movies. Luckily, I was able to save for the rainy days, even if most of my possessions (a Rolex, etc.) were taken away from me. But generally," she added with a sad smile, "I’m just trying to recover. I might take up Computer Engineering (a two-year course) and later work for a big company headed by my friend’s father."

There was sadness in her smile and in her voice, all right, but Anjanette swore that there’s no bitterness in her heart.

"What lessons have I learned from my experiences these past three years?" she repeated my question. "Well, I realized who my real friends are... which ones are true to me and which ones are not. Life’s like that, di ba? When you’re up, everybody claims to be your friend. But when you’re down, you can count who your friends are in the fingers of one hand."

Doesn’t she hold any grudge against people who, well, "maltreated" her – you know, wolves in sheep’s clothing?

"Ay naku," said Anjanette, "bahala na ang Diyos sa kanila."

I asked her if it’s true that she and former boyfriend Gabby Concepcion, himself on a forced "exile" in America (San Francisco), have been dating again and Anjanette nearly choked on her coffee.

"A reporter from a TV station in Manila, in fact, called me up about it. Sabi niya, he heard it from a reliable source that Gabby and I went out to dinner. I told the reporter, ‘Then, your reliable source is not reliable enough!’ Please lang, ano? I don’t commit the same mistake twice. Gabby is in my past and I keep him there. Past is past."

Does she have a new boyfriend?

Anjanette simply looked at me, as if to say, "What do you think?"

Has she been keeping up with showbiz goings-on back home?

"It’s my mom who’s well-informed about showbiz tsismis. She’s the one who updates me."

But she does miss showbiz and everything in it – her co-stars, the dancing, the acting, the camaraderie.

So why is she "malingering" in L.A.? Why doesn’t she come back to the Philippines and resume her rudely-interrupted career?

Well, there’s the Immigration "blacklist," you know, something only President GMA can do something about (perhaps with a friendly "push" from Sen. Serge and, for whatever he can, from Councilor Franz).

"Besides," said Anjanette, that certain sadness again showing in her face, "it’s not for me to say – I mean, my going back. If the people back there still want me back, then I’ll go back but only if any (legal) impediment is lifted."

As we kissed goodbye – see you when I see you? – my heart went out to Anjanette who, I’m sure, has suffered enough and paid for whatever it was she had to pay for. The Yolk magazine in L.A. recently came out with an article on her entitled The Rise and Fall and Rise (Again) of Anjanette Abayari.

As PR 103 finally took off and L.A. gradually became just a thousand flickering lights from my window seat, I imagined Anjanette driving home, alone, wondering if she’ll ever really "rise again."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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