MANILA, Philippines - Once upon a time, there was a Princess who was meek and gentle. Her kindness was sometimes misunderstood and abused by people around her.
She fell in love, only to realize that he was not the answer to her prayers. Through the years, she became stronger and wiser. Then she traveled far in search of true love, and found her Prince Charming in another kingdom, in a land far away.
Hers is a fairy tale, and Princess Punzalan certainly sees a happy ending. From being a naïve and vulnerable teeny-bopper, she has blossomed into a strong woman who has found home in the US.
“Life in the Philippines and in the US is like night and day. In the Philippines, people know me when I walk in the streets. In America, I get to enjoy my own quiet time even if I am in public. It feels like I can do anything because I am starting with a clean slate. I do not get judged by who they think I am because of the work I did, who my parents are, or who I was associated with,” says the PMPC Star Awards for TV’s Best Drama Actress in 1998 for her role as Selina in Mula Sa Puso.
Princess likes the “sense of order in America, I like the new technology, new ways of doing stuff and in-depth studies they make to see if things are really safe or effective,” she shares.
One thing she has not gotten used to is the cool climate.
Princess moved to America because of love. As she says, “I go where my husband is.” She described her love life today as “Very good. Very satisfying. Very peaceful.”
The husband with whom Princess shares her life now is Jay Field from Michigan who used to work as the commercial attaché at the US Embassy in Manila and is now with a company that supplies maps to GPS (Global Positioning System) companies all over the world.
In the local entertainment industry, Princess was last seen in the Regal Films’ movie My Valentine Girls with Richard Gutierrez and before that, in the GMA fantaserye The Last Prince. Last year, Princess did a film directed by Clarissa delos Reyes. The film, Johnny Loves Dolores, is an entry in the San Francisco International Asian Film Festival this month.
Though acting makes her happy, as well as seeing her husband smile, walking along the beach, and knowing that she is loved, Princess is now focused on studying to become a nurse.
Princess will never turn her back on acting which is admittedly her first love. Among her many roles, she loved playing Selina the most.
“The role of Selina opened up a lot of doors. I received an award for the work I did on that series. That gave me opportunities to do other kontrabida roles. Everywhere I go, even today, 15 years later, I still meet people who call me Selina,” shares Princess, who used to be stereotyped as the “martyr” type of a woman before she played the villain.
Being Selina helped Princess to blossom as a person and gave her the license to break out of a certain restraint that was stopping her from being real. She learned to be comfortable showing a stronger side of me. The kontrabida role showed that Princess could act tough.
For this, she has Coney Reyes to thank for. The multi-awarded actress and producer told Princess how she should attack the role of Selina.
“Tita Coney is one of the people I hold in high esteem in show business and in real life. She’s like a mom to me. I listen to what she tells me when she gives me advice pertaining to my craft. I respect the wisdom she has and how she lives her life,” Princess says.
Princess shares the many lessons she has learned in life and in show business: “Each of us has a unique path. We all learn things differently. And there are times when we have to go through difficult times to learn wisdom. It is important to think things through before making a decision. Life is what you make it. If you focus on the negative, you attract it all the more. When you focus on the good, life is more beautiful! Know who you are. Your own identity must be clear to you, and be true to it. Do not let other people’s expectations of you put you in a box. Remain respectful but stay on your own path. Treat people with respect, no matter who they are.”
Regret is one thing that Princess can live without.
“I do not have a project that I regret having done. Although sometimes I wish I knew then what I know now so I could have at least done better, or made better artistic decisions. Maybe the only thing I regret is not spending more time with my parents,” says Princess, who lost her mother, Helen Vela in 1992 and her father, Orly Punzalan in 2005.
When stressed, Princess watches the shows she recorded on the DVR or the ones she has from Netflix. When troubled, she prays.
“I pray a lot. It’s not on a programmed schedule. I just talk to God spontaneously in my head. I sometimes write to Him and pour out my thoughts and feelings through e-mail that I send right back to myself,” she reflects.
To keep her fit figure, Princess minds what she eats, indulges every now and then but makes up for it right after, and walks by the beach when she has the time. For her skin care, Princess only trusts Calayan Medical Aesthetics in West Hollywood. She knows she will not be forever young so she finds ways to delay the aging process gracefully.
And Dr. Pie Calayan helps her with this.
Princess has known Dr. Pie since the ‘90s as the first Calayan clinic in Quezon City is in the same building as Helen Vela’s office.
Once upon a time, there was Princess Punzalan. And she knows she will live happily ever after. Right now, she enjoys both worlds — keeping a private life in the US as a wife and student, with the chance to keep acting in the Philippines whenever an opportunity comes.