Ai Ai ready to take flight
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark () - January 18, 2008 - 12:00am

Her sunshiny smile is as bright as the yellow blouse she’s wearing as she welcomes you into her spanking new restaurant across ABS-CBN. You step inside and note the just-as-happy interiors: The colorful chairs, walls and tables.

I’m talking of Ai Ai de las Alas’ and the first branch of Ai Sarap, which she originally put up at the heart of Manila. Today, she did the cooking herself, whipping up her specialty, carbonara, just for friends from the press, most of whom stepped foot in her new place for the first time.

The new Ai Sarap branch, just like the one in Manila, is an intimate affair. It conveniently seats 80 people, or just the right number of mouths to feed in case its owner decides to don her apron and run the kitchen herself.

And since the ingredients come straight out of Ai Ai’s home-based commissary, she can start buckling down to work right away. The best part is, Ai Ai need not step out of the house and look fabulous the way most stars like her are expected to be, when she does her kitchen creations.

She can be in her favorite duster for all anyone cares, tie her hair in a pony tail and get right down to work.

But  those days of kitchen bliss have to wait once more. Ai Ai has just ended her nine-month break from TV when she agreed to play the title role on Volta, ABS-CBN’s new TV series to premiere on Saturday, Jan. 26, 6 p.m.

After being in-between shows for almost a year, the Star Network finally answered Ai Ai’s prayer for TV work that will keep her visible to her followers.

So overjoyed is she about her new series, a takeoff from the 2004 movie of the same title, Ai Ai left no stone unturned in proving she deserves the job. She went on a diet and frequented the gym to fit into Volta’s  tight-fitting flaming red costume.    

“This is much harder than the movie,” Ai Ai, who first played the role for Star Cinema says. “I stayed suspended at a height of 60 feet to ‘fly’ over the city and fight the bad guys (the Maskulado family composed of Carlos Morales as Incredible Hunk, Jackie Lou Blanco as Black Hola, Jessie Mendiola as Chappy Girl and Quintin Alianza as Ice Ice Baby).”

If she felt butterflies in her stomach, Ai Ai didn’t show it. All she did was keep gazing forward, and not below her.  She also double checked all safety measures and did what she has gotten so used to doing by now: Pray hard.

Besides, with Wenn Deramas, her director in the monster hit Ang Tanging Ina beside her, Ai Ai felt nothing can go wrong. Director and talent are so comfortable with each other, Ai Ai claims they can work together “with eyes closed.”

Unlike the Volta movie, the TV series gives Ai Ai’s character, Perla, a more human face. This time, Perla has become a wife (to PBB alumnus Jayson Gainza) and mother (to Salty and Pepper). Perla may disapprove of it, but her children use the super powers of electricity they got from their mom to fight evil.

Besides Volta, Ai Ai is looking forward to two movies this year. The first, Ikaw Pa Rin for Viva Films,  has a  March playdate and casts her as Robin Padilla’s love interest.

The second, a still untitled Star Cinema project with former president Joseph Estrada, is another romance comedy.

“It’s a privilege to work with Papa E (her term of endearment for the former president) for the first time,” says Ai Ai.  “And since I play his wife, I expect to have kissing scenes with him.”

She even jests that working with Erap is more challenging than teaming up with Sen. Bong Revilla, Ai Ai’s leading man in Kapag Tumibok ang Puso (Not Once but Twice).

“You see,” Ai Ai goes on, “Erap was president.  Bong is a senator.  Papa E’s position is higher than Sen. Bong.”  And Ai Ai breaks into that trademark laughter of hers.

Speaking of politicians, will she follow in the footsteps of Vilma Santos, Aiko Melendez, Marjorie Barretto and other stars who have entered public office?

Ai Ai shakes her head. “If I win, what will I do?” she replies.

Ai Ai realizes — with good reason — that “God created me to make people laugh.” So politics is out of the question.

But then, just like Vilma, who first pooh-poohed politics, the hand of fate may just turn things around and change Ai Ai’s mind.  Asked about it, Ai Ai remains as non-committal as ever.  Yes, it’s better that she crosses the bridge when she gets there, and not now, when Ai Ai is caught in a whirlwind of concerns.  Her children are growing, her food business is expanding, and 2008 looks good where her career is concerned.

Besides, there’s always a time and a place for everything.  Right, Ai Ai?

AI AI PLACE
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