“I’VE ALREADY lost 23 pounds—20 more to go!”

MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Allan Policarpio - Everything comes in threes, they say, and that just might be the case for the sorely missed love team of Aga Muhlach and Lea Salonga.

After starring in two romantic dramas in the past—“Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal?” (1992) and “Sana Maulit Muli” (1995)—the actors said they were open to reuniting on the silver screen for a third time.

“Lea and I go to the same gym; we’re neighbors. We would always talk about it and she’s game about it. I’d tell her, ‘We already did two movies—let’s do a third,’” Muhlach told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

But before they could even begin talking about possible scripts, Muhlach said that there was one thing they had to do first: “Be in good shape and look our best.”

This applied in particular to Muhlach, who admitted he “let himself go” when he campaigned early this year for the congressional seat of the fourth district of Camarines Sur.

“You won’t be always in your best shape. Sometimes you just get tired and let go! It happens to everyone. And then you realize it’s not healthy, or you don’t look as nice, so you try to lose weight again,” he said.

Charlene Gonzales, Rob Chien, Aga Muhlach, and Lea Salonga:

Losing weight

Told about Salonga’s July 21 interview in the talk show “The Buzz” where she was quoted as saying, “I’ve lost a little bit of weight and it’s starting to show, so it’s his turn na lang,” Muhlach retorted, “Well, I’ve already lost 23 pounds—20 more to go!”

Muhlach said he hoped he and Salonga could do something “realistic, mature, but still very fun to watch.” “Perhaps something similar to (the Meryl Streep-starrer) ‘It’s Complicated.’ Of course, we can’t do pa-cute anymore.”

The actor said it was flattering to know that he was one of Salonga’s favorite costars. The 44-year-old actor credited Salonga with helping him get his first big break as a leading man.

“After returning to show biz in the early 1990s, my first real romantic movie was ‘Bakit.’ I think it was Lea’s first film after getting famous for ‘Miss Saigon,’” he said. “I’m glad I was paired with her. It was a hit. I even won an award for it [in the 1992 Metro Manila Film Festival].”

Offers to do leading-man roles poured in after “Bakit,” Muhlach said. “Sunod-sunod na after that movie. I did ‘May Minamahal’ with Aiko Melendez, ‘Forever’ with Mikee Cojuangco,’ ‘Basta’t Kasama Kita’ with Dayanara Torres,” he added.

While waiting for the right script for his possible new movie with Salonga, the TV5 actor will focus on hosting “Pinoy Explorer” (Sundays, 6 p.m.), an educational travel show; and “Let’s Ask Pilipinas” (weeknights, 7 p.m.), the local version of the quiz show “Let’s Ask America.”

Outside of “Pinoy Explorer,” some of Muhlach’s most memorable adventures happened during his campaign in CamSur. “It was a wonderful experience. We would be on boats at midnight to reach the islands. You talk to the people and see the worth and importance of each one. At times, as an actor, you don’t see that,” he said.


Lea Salonga wants possible reunion movie with Aga Muhlach to suit their maturity by Rose Garcia posted on December 5, 2008 STATS: 624 Views | 0 Comments Text Size: A A A

"I don't know if there's anything else that I'd like to do or achieve, or anything like that. I have a wonderful family. I have a wonderful career. I can't ask for anything more," says Lea Salonga. PHOTO: NOEL ORSAL

International star Lea Salonga, who has been the singing voice of popular animated characters in Aladdin (Princess Jasmine) and Mulan, will be heard in a Filipino animation movie for the first time. Lea is singing the theme song "Lipad" for the Cutting Edge Productions' animated film, Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia, an official entry to the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Lea believes in Dayo and this is one of the major reasons she decided to be a part of the movie, which is a combination of a 2-D and 3-D film animation. Kung nagagawa niyang maging part ng Hollywood animation films, bakit nga naman hindi sa gawang Pinoy.

"I know that the film is going to be something worthwhile," sabi ni Lea. "It's all-Filipino artists. It's a very Filipino story. It's an all-Filipino endeavor. And it's something that is very, very close to my heart. And I'd lent my voice to Disney, so why not lend my voice to something that is homegrown and made here? And hopefully encourage more animation studios to take this kind of endeavor and prosper industry building, friendly competition. And hopefully, be able to produce more of it because, you know, it serves as an inspiration for me to keep on aiming high when I hear a Filipino company, like Cutting Edge, has something like this.

"This is not exactly a deep, cynical animation from different places, but it's a start. A stepping stone towards something greater... And an effort like this should constantly be encouraged in order to improve animation such as this."

Tinanong ng PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) si Lea sa press conference ng Dayo sa Discovery Suites kahapon, December 4, kung mas okey sa kanya ang kumanta ng theme song kesa mag-boses sa isang character ng Dayo.

"Either one would have bean great, but I was not asked," sagot ni Lea. "And I don't think I will have the time to devote to doing a voice because that would take a lot of time. And scheduling conflict would have made it impossible. But at least, I was able somehow to be a part of it by singing the theme song. You know, at least, kahit papaano, nakasali rin ako sa pelikulang ito."

WHAT'S NEXT FOR LEA. Dahil katatapos lang ng Cinderella run niya sa Pilipinas, ano pa ba ang dapat abangan sa kanya ngayon?

Natawa si Lea sa sunud-sunod na tanong sa kanya kung ang susunod niyang project ay ang pelikula nilang muli ni Aga Muhlach. Matatandaang ang huling dalawang pelikulang ginawa ni Lea ay parehong si Aga ang kapareha niya—Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal? (1992) at Sana Maulit Muli (1995).

"Well, I've expressed very openly that I would love to do a movie with him again. And he expressed very openly that he would like to do a movie with me. And I think, it's a matter of finding a project that will fit us, and not into something na hindi naman na bagay sa aming dalawa.

"We're both in our mid-thirties. We have children and we're more mature people, especially as compared to the last movie [Sana Maulit Muli] that we did together when we were both in our early 20s and we had a lot of growing up to do. We are grown-ups now. Hopefully, the project that is presented to us is something that would show us as grown-up.

"It's not gonna be a teeny-bopper love team. There are young people who can take that department. That's not us anymore. I'm 37 years old and he's 39. So, whatever story we do has to fit who we are as people. And so, I think, the two of us have to be incredibly and extremely careful with how the story is going to be. It can't be implausible because if it's something na talagang ako mismo, hindi ako maniniwala sa ginagawa ko, walang maniniwala na manonood. So, it has to be something that I believe would actually happen to people like us," mahabang paliwanag ni Lea.

PEP asked Lea kung posible kayang next year na matuloy ang reunion movie nila ni Aga, na tila nagsimula ang idea nang mag-guest si Aga sa nakaraang concert niya, ang Lea...My Life On Stage.

"I'm hoping that it happens next year," sagot ng international star. "But if it happens the year after, then it's fine too. Life can only happen and whatever happens, I'm hoping that while I'm alive, it does happen. But I don't wanna rush into something if it's not gonna be right. It's like baking and you pull the oven door too early, the cake is going to fall. So, it has to be different."

Ipinaalala namin kay Lea na ang last movie nila ni Aga, ang Sana Maulit Muli, ay isa pa rin sa pinaka-memorable local films hanggang ngayon. Napangiti siya rito.

"I'm really happy that people still think that. Na marami pa rin ang nagsasabi na, ‘Wow, ang ganda ng pelikula! Umiyak ako sa pelikula noon. Ang ganda-ganda talaga ng kuwento. Ang ganda talaga ng tambalan ninyong dalawa!' And it's flattering to both of us.

"I had him guest in my concert last May and he brought the house down. And it's an indication to me that the two of us as a tandem work. And he's a good team player, and he's a wonderful actor, and he's also incredibly generous in giving. And we have text going back and forth, and it's like, ‘What kind of a storyline are they going to give us?' We have that kind of conversation. And he's like, ‘Huwag kang mag-alala, basta just put your trust in me and the story will be good!'"

Mahirap bang tapatan ang Sana Maulit Muli?

"I don't think it has to be different," ani Lea. "Obviously, there should be love involved or what's the point? But it cannot be the same story because we are not the same people, and so it's whatever the story the two of us do. It cannot be the same as Sana Maulit Muli. It can't be a Part 2. It can't be a sequel. It can't be a continuation of the story. It has to be something completely different.

"I think the more challenging it is, the more rewarding it is for the two of us. We're both grown-ups as an actor, as people. And our spouses are excited for us to do the film together. And if we have that kind of support from our better-half, then it's more encouraging for us to do something special."

Kasama pa rin ba si Aga sa list ng pinakaguwapong lalaki para sa kanya?

"He's up there, definitely!" natawa niyang sabi. "Well, he takes care of himself. It's not just his physical appearance. Hindi lang naman kasi siya magandang lalaki. Kasi maganda rin naman ang loob niya. And he's a pretty smart guy. He's good with business and he's a shrewd businessman.

"He's pretty good with his money and it's something that I admire. He looks out for his family. And he doesn't blow all his money in anything that is worthless. Obviously, he would splurge or obviously he will spend. But having said that, he knows how to invest and he knows how to plan for his future. He's a genuinely good guy. He's just a genuinely nice person. So, you know, that all contributes to why I think he's incredibly guwapo."

HOME IS WHEREVER SHE IS. The way things are going with Lea's family and her career, ang Pilipinas na ba talaga ang itinuturing niyang home base?

"Well, my home is wherever I hang my clothes," sagot niya. "Wherever I park my car. I guess, wherever I am, it's home. And right now, it's here and my husband [Robert Chien] has found a wonderful professional opportunity for himself. He's the president of Ambient Media and he works closely with my brother for Filharmonika also. Their company is also coming out with their own animated film, but it's 3-D and that's the whole different story. I'm sure you'll hear about it, closer to the time once it's nearing completion.

"Since he has incredible work experience here, we've found ourselves based here in Manila. And I still able to get work abroad. I still get to do musicals and concerts in the States and wherever I'm needed. Now, I'm actually touring with the show [Cinderella] all over Asia. So, it doesn't really matter where I live because I'm still able to do what I love to do. For him [Robert], obviously, it's much more important that we are in one place."

Rob Chien and daughter Nicole at Lea's surprised 40th birthday party

WIFE AND MOTHER. Almost fully booked ang 2009 schedule ni Lea, mostly in different places abroad. Pero sa kabila nito, nandiyan pa rin ang pagiging asawa niya sa mister niyang si Robert Chien at pagiging ina niya sa kanilang anak na si Nicole.

"I take my daughter when I have to be away. She's a girl, two and a half. Very, very kikay. She's a girl! Much, much girlie than I ever was or ever will be. Very bibo, very smart, and very bright, and very friendly. Loves to talk, loves to sing. She's starting to sing full songs. She's talking a lot. She's not yet speaking in full sentences, but she's getting there. By the time she's three, she will be ready for pre-school," magiliw na kuwento ni Lea.

Will she allow Nicole to join showbiz or theater someday?

"That's really all up to her," sagot ni Lea. "But if I have the choice, I'd rather have her finish and be a doctor. It's because I've grown up in show business and I see show business' great side and I also see less great sides. And if I can protect her from the less great side, I would but I can't.

"She will see things [that are] ugly. She will see things less favored. She will experience frustration. She will have heartbreaks and heartaches, and wonder if it's right for her. She will experience doubts and rejection and a lot of these things many showbiz artists go through, even those who are at their peak. So, I mean, I rather have her do something that is probably more stable.

"But having said that, she's showing an attitude and an inclination for this work. So, if this is something that she really desires, and not just as a hobby, ‘Anak, kung hobby, huwag na lang.' Do it in a community theater, do it for the love of, do it in college. But if there is a strong desire and you see nothing else for yourself but that', then I have to encourage her."

May plano na ba sila ni Robert na bigyan ng kapatid si Nicole?

LEA'S WEDDING TO ROBERT CHARLES CHIEN IN 2004: A Melody Of Love From the day they met, a shared passion for music and song lead to the romance and marriage of Lea Salonga and Robert Chien. The two were introduced by Robert’s cousin, Christine, who Lea was performing with in “Flower Drum Song” at the Mark Taper Forum. After meeting a couple of more times, Lea and Robert finally got to know each other better and when their first official date included singing along to the car radio, it seems that romance was set in motion.

"We have no plans for anything!" natatawa niyang sabi. "Work seems to be taking over for the both of us, my husband and me. But it's something that I have openly expressed and that girl needs a sibling very seriously. We're hoping for the best. We'll see what will happen."

Sino ang mas na-spoil ni Mommy Ligaya, her daughter Nicole o si Lea noong bata pa siya?

"Oh, my mom spoils her [Nicole]!" bulalas ni Lea. "She's a lola and the lola always spoils her apo. And she's the first grandchild and because she's my mom's first apo, so siyempre mai-spoil siya. ‘I got her a new coat. I got her this new shoes. I got her a new book. I got her clothes.' Its like, ‘Okay Mom, you save me from shopping!"

Sa kanilang dalawa raw ni Robert ay walang nang-i-spoil sa anak nila. But Lea notices that Nicole is more of a "mama's girl."

"She will say goodbye to everybody. But if it's me, like, ‘Honey, bye-bye! I'm gonna go now.' She will say, ‘Mommy, no. Mommy come, mommy come.' She's more maka-mommy and very close to me. So when I leave, I have to do it when she's focused on something else.

"But, you know, there's some day that she will accept that I have to go, and I'll come back. But there is also a thing that is separation anxiety, and it's hard to see her crying when I have to walk out of the door and have to go to work. But I've read about it and heard a lot of moms that say, ‘Don't feel guilty. It's normal and her abuela [grandma] naman is there.'"

Nicole Salonga Chien

LEA ASKS MEDIA NOT TO PRESSURE NICOLE. At present, nasa tamang note naman daw ang boses ng anak. Three or four years old si Lea nang ma-discover that she can actually sing. Tinanong namin si Lea kung aware ba siya na hindi pa man ipinapanganak si Nicole ay may pressure na sa kanya, being the daughter of Lea Salonga.

"I know, but I don't want that pressure on her. That is probably why I want her to completely do something differently from what I do, but it's the same thing. Like KC Concepcion being the daughter of Sharon Cuneta, Karylle being the daughter of Zsa Zsa Padilla. It's going to be one of those inevitable things where there would be a heightened expectation of her because she's my daughter.

"Kaya, you know, all I ask for the members of the press, please, do not give her that pressure. Do not pressure her. I don't want her to enter this business because she feels that 'I have to imitate my mom'. Because there are kids of actors that say, ‘Yun kasi ang ginagawa ng tatay ko, so gagawin ko rin yun.' I don't want her to say that. I want her to say that ‘I'm in it because I love it. I have a passion for it' and, you know, 'this is the only thing I wanna do in my life.' I didn't start saying that until much later in my life. But if she says that very early on, then I have to encourage her, and hopefully, instill the right direction."

There's no doubt that Lea is the epitome of a local artist who is well admired, even by other high-caliber artists who want to penetrate the international scene. Is there anything else that she feels she still needs to do or dreams about?

"I don't know if there's anything else that I'd like to do or achieve, or anything like that. I have a wonderful family. I have a wonderful career. I can't ask for anything more. I'm starting to develop other talents. Now, I'm writing for the Inquirer every week. That is, you know, proving something that works my mind in a different weight and it gives me a different pressure. It gives me a creative outlet so, you know, I'm finding other opportunities to do other things. There isn't anything else that I could ask to do or want to do except keep on doing what I am doing now."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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