'Home' is where Tessie's heart is
(The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2000 - 12:00am

Tessie Tomas cried before the presscon for her new lifestyle show, Feel at Home (pilot episode: May 13, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 noon, ABS-CBN) at the Aresi Restaurant-Bar along Tomas Morato, Quezon City, started.

But before anyone can say a word, Tessie's face lit up and she said, "No, this is not a drama show. I'm just so glad I'm back home (Channel 2, where her top-rating daily show, Teysi ng Tahanan was aired until it faded from the scene three years ago)."

Indeed, Tessie is back where she belongs. Before even the likes of Kris Aquino ever lorded it over the talk show game, Tessie was known as Queen of Daytime TV. She kept televiewers, especially housewives who tuned in to her show every morning, glued to the set, made to look like the living room of Tessie's home.

But that kind of success had its price. Tessie felt the pressure of being on top. Life for her revolved around the studio. Then she met Englishman Roger Pullin and she realized there's more to life than making sure her show rated well.

Tessie bowed out of Teysi ng Tahanan -- with much tears, of course. Other TV appearances -- Onli in the Philippines and Compañero y Compañera -- hardly approximated the impact of Teysi.

To be sure, the more relaxed pace took some adjusting to. Tessie would wake up in the morning and ask herself, "Is it showtime yet?"

She didn't turn on the TV set for two months, fearful of seeing a parade of engaging shows taunt her to her face.

Tessie fought depression by going with a friend to Sydney, Australia, then travelling to Brisbane, for 20 days. But the ghost of her Teysi days still refused to let her be for a time.

She'd go shopping at Landmark, or visit SM, only to encounter fans nagging her, "Why did you leave us?" It took three months for Tessie to get over the loss of her beloved show.

But once the truth sank in, Tessie moved on with her life. She ventured into social work, as president of the Catbalogonan Foundation and board director of the Community Family Services International. Tessie sent a medical mission to treat indigent patients in her hometown of Catbalogan, Samar. She was also invited to do volunteer work in war-torn Myanmar and East Timor.

"I get a different kind of high from such kind of work," states Tessie, looking more laidback than her old blazer-and-buttoned-up days.

The new Tessie is more of a jeans-and-T-shirt type of person. She has done away with the signature "Imeldific" coiffure (after all, she played Imelda Marcos in the long-running play Meldita, didn't she?) and has opted to literally let her hair down for a more youthful, with-it look.

The new Tessie is just like that: less stiff, more relaxed in the knowledge that she has proven herself as a TV host while finding true happiness at home.

Marriage has mellowed her. Unlike before, when she'd make her move without consulting anybody, Tessie now listens to what Roger has to say. That way, she is assured of his all-out support.

When she was taping Sa Sandaling Kailangan Mo Ako, where she played a villain on TV for the first time, Tessie was out of the house seven in the morning till one in the afternoon the next day. Taping was held in Bulacan, so she couldn't go home right away, even if she wanted to.

Roger didn't complain a bit, and even cancelled their nights-out to give her more rest time. He even stopped working in his recording studio in the room next to theirs, careful not make any noise while his dear wife is resting after a hard day's work.

It's a give-and-take set-up, actually. Tessie has learned to drop everything when she and Roger are sharing a meal at home. Years of marriage to an Englishman have taught her how sacred meal time is to her husband.

Roger would feel uneasy if Tessie -- Filipino style -- would do a dozen and one things (e.g. answering a phone call, talking to the maid, etc.) while having dinner.

"To an Englishman, dinner is not just food. It's the company," Tessie reveals.

So she instructs the maid (Roger insists on keeping the number of househelp to a minimum) not to interrupt them while they're eating. There are to be no phone calls, and the caller is either asked to try again after a few minutes, or informed that Roger or Tessie will return his or her call shortly.

"That's my version of culture shock for you, my biggest adjustment to marriage," says Tessie.

Even then, she can't thank her lucky stars enough for making her marriage work, and how! Tessie never realized the bliss of what she calls "co-dependence" until now. She sings her dear Roger's praises in public for understanding her erratic hours and his constant reminders that she should have time for herself.

And time for herself she has. Tessie can now give herself and her husband the luxury of tasting home-cooked pakbet (she cooks it herself) twice a week. She can now set aside time to eat out with her husband.

That's why Tessie likes her new lifestyle-type show just the way it is. Since it's only once a week, it allows her to juggle her time between career and home.

"I'm not dreaming of having a sitcom, and I plan to just concentrate on one show," she reveals.

Tessie has reached a point where she can enjoy the best of both worlds -- home and career, in equal measure. She has worked hard for it, earning her spurs through her passion for quality and dedication to her craft.

And now, it's payback time. The new Tessie can now savor the fruits of her labor , and face the world -- on her own terms.

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