Priscilla is free!

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -
If butterflies are free, as the title of the play she’s starring in claims, why can’t she be?

"The truth is I’m free, at last," says Priscilla Almeda as she sits down for this exclusive interview. "I’m so much better now without my husband. I’m happier, more comfortable and more peaceful, and more free. I feel like a butterfly freed from the cocoon after a long time."

Butterflies Are Free
, a romantic-comedy written by Tony awardee Leonard Gershe, is set during the restless and psychedelic late ’60s. It’s about coming to terms with oneself and about one’s elusive search for personal freedom. A blind sullen young man leaves home with his doting mother endlessly following him along the perilous streets of lower eastside New York, while a free-spirited 19-year-old stage actress aimlessly tries to make both ends meet auditioning from one off-Broadway play to another, until they meet and eventually fall in love.

"I easily identified with my character, Jill, the stage actress," adds Priscilla. "Like her, I’m free-spirited. Like Don, the blind young man (played by Joel Trinidad), a restless soul forever searching for life’s meaning amidst the city that never sleeps." In the movie version, Goldie Hawn played Jill and Edward Albert played Don.

Being free-spirited, Priscilla felt trapped in a two-year marriage which she describes in one word: ‘Hell!’ The man, father of her two-year-old daughter Maria Tippi Ferrelle and from whom Priscilla separated a few months ago, has gone back to the US where they met and fell in love three years ago. They got married and, for two years, lived together, spending part of their married life with the man’s family in Aklan.

"He was so possessive and jealous that he wouldn’t let me look at other men. If I as much as accidentally looked at another man, even a security guard at the door, he’d get jealous, he’d get mad. I felt that my every movement was numbered; I had to be on guard all the time. I was playing a role which I hated. I wasn’t myself."

They also had great times together, especially during their early years as sweethearts.

"He started changing when I got pregnant, maybe because before I met him I was with somebody else and he doubted if Tippi was really his daughter. Tippi looks a bit like my husband but she’s very much like me."

What broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was when Tippi was hurt in an incident which Prscilla would rather not recall nor talk about. Suffice it to say, Priscilla assures, "That he didn’t mean it. I know that he loves Tippi as much as I do and he said he was sorry for the incident."

Before that failed marriage, Priscilla was a lost soul, wandering into showbiz where she started as a sweet starlet (during the innocent days of The Guwapings) and ended up as an "ST" (Sex Trip) or "bold" star with Seiko Films, dropping Abbey Viduya and adopting Priscilla Almeda as her screen name.

Her world turned upside-down when she learned that she was an adopted daughter of the Viduyas. She became a rebel (without a cause?). She traced her biological mother in Canada where, ironically, Priscilla spent her growing years with her adoptive family.

Four years ago, she starred in Sutla, a smash-hit soft-porn that spawned a Senate probe when it was denounced by guardians of public morality. She did a few more movies after that, including Lav Diaz’s Batang West Side which was filmed in New York in the winter of 2001. That’s where she met her estranged husband with whom she came back early last year.

"I really wanted our marriage to work," Priscilla says, "because having a family is one of my fondest dreams. Unfortunately..."

So she played a real-life martyr role, hiding the truth from friends because she was afraid they might blame her. She suffered in silence.

To cut a long story short, she gathered enough guts and bolted what to her was a "prison," with Tippi in tow.

Has she become a man-hater because of that traumatic experience?

"No, of course not! I still love men. My dream boy now is Jerry Yan. He’s cute and sexy, isn’t he? He reminds me of someone I used to love (Son of a business magnate. – RFL)."

Neither has she developed a phobia for marriage.

"I still hope to have a happy family someday."

Meanwhile, with her attention focused on her rudely-interrupted career, including an unfinished contract with Dyna Records, Priscilla refrains from getting seriously involved with any man. She denies rumors that she’s the "kept woman" of a man married to a prominent lady, but she admits dating "one or two guys," both scions of powerful political families.

"I admit that when I’m in love, I’m all heart; I don’t use my mind. That’s why I always end up a big loser, empty-handed."

But now she knows better, promising to use lessons from her past painful experiences if and when she falls seriously in love again.

"Next time, I’ll use more of my head than my heart," she vows.

Free again like a butterfly, Priscilla underwent a liposuction "all over my body" and non-surgical facelift when she decided to resume her career.

"I gained ugly pounds," she laughs. "I have to look sexy and desirable again."

If she can help it, Priscilla will avoid bold roles, not like the daring ones she used to do anyway. "I can do sexy movies but I can’t go as far as I did before."

In Butterflies Are Free, produced by Dramatis Personae and directed by DP artistic director and Palanca Awardee Lito Casaje, Priscilla will have a love scene with Joel Trinidad, all right, but no nude scenes.

Now 27, with the experience of a 67-year-old, Priscilla looks at life from a clearer point of view, pursuing what she says is a clear direction in her life and career.

"There was a time when I became suicidal, especially after my separation from (the Jerry Yan lookalike). I started drinking. I guess my depression was the result of the Bangkok Pills I was taking then. Di ba may shabu ingredient daw ang Bangkok Pills and they can cause hallucinations? I had to consult a counsellor to straighten out kinks in my life. Now I have Tippi. She’s my inspiration. I’m glad that my (estranged) husband and I are in good terms despite what happened."

(Note: Butterflies Are Free will be mounted at the Republic of Malate Theater, at 1769 A. Mabini St., on Dec, l2, 13, 19 and 20, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 p.m. For inquiries, call 722-4205, 721-3178, 0918-6507617 or 0917-8247966.)

(E-mail reactions at [email protected])

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