Ayen happy with career and family life

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There’s no trouble in paradise for Franco and Ayen Munji-Laurel.

Stressing that there’s no truth to the separation rumors, Ayen was visibly amused as she threw a question back at the select media present during the intimate interview, as to what possibly sparked the issue on the status of their marriage.

“Early this year, I was asked the same question. We’re actually wondering why,” the actress said.

Because people have been used to seeing the couple doing projects together, via theater or concerts, she reckoned the issue must have been “perhaps because we are not seen together (recently in public). We have our own lives and work.”

Ayen related that Franco is currently focused on corporate shows and the stage. “And now he’s into writing also. He started his own blog. I have always been telling him that he’s a good writer. He is so intelligent and he has so many opinions.”

She added, “Actually, he’s gonna be in the (new GMA teleserye) Paroa. He’ll start taping this week. So, he is doing his own thing and I’m doing my own thing.

“I think that’s how it really is when things are quiet. They’d think you’ve separated.”

“But we’re not,” Ayen reiterated.

This is not to say that their marriage is not without its share of challenges. But it never reached the point — not even close — of deciding to go on their separate ways.

Ayen happily noted that they’re celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary in March next year. “With the relationship I have with Franco, this year is really a year of parang realization. Because we’re gonna be 12 years in March. It’s a long relationship already.”

Nevertheless, one challenge to their more-than-a-decade union is how to keep it exciting. The little things count — for one, they have to have weekly romantic dates.

“It’s a challenge in every relationship, you know, to keep it alive. You really have to work on the relationship. It’s not something like a bed of roses. I think that’s not true. For me, we are, individually, a work in progress and more so, as a couple.”

She continued, “If you’re married, you have to be together in so many things, right? It’s a big adjustment for me that I had my first marriage and this is my second marriage.

“Before Franco met me, I’ve been an independent woman already. What I mean is, I already had a life before he met me. I had two kids before I met Franco. So, the adjustment, believe it or not, it’s still happening. But in a good way.”

Ayen also said that “the kids have grown and they’re appreciating Franco more. And Franco has matured a lot in so many ways as a man and as a father of my children.”

Asked to describe their married life, Ayen said, “I don’t know if I can describe it in one word. But I think we came to a point already that we realized that God gave us this relationship.

“I guess you can say it’s God-centered because kung hindi kami takot sa Diyos, we might have given in to a lot of challenges. And I’m not talking about temptations. I’m talking about issues in your life as a couple that can make you give up. If you have God in your life, you can work out your relationship and protect the (marriage) vow.”

Meanwhile, Ayen is again busy with TV work as she plays Lady Armada in the primetime series Temptation of Wife on GMA 7. She’s the adoptive mother of Rafael Rosell’s character and will be instrumental to Marian Rivera’s character when she seeks revenge after a betrayal.

Ayen started out as a theater actress, and will always be one, but she acknowledged that “being in a teleserye, you are recognized more. They really know who you are… In stage, after a performance, there’s applause, then exit. Minsan hindi ka pa nila matatandaan na ikaw pala yun unless you win an award. (In TV) you have a fanbase. They appreciate what you do and they are very vocal about it.”

Temptation comes after a two-month break, which she intentionally took after doing two dramas straight — Amaya then Hiram Na Puso. It’s also a welcome change from her previous drama because “there wasn’t a taping day in Hiram wherein my character wasn’t crying or getting angry or being pushed to the wall. So, for me Temptation is a welcome change because I can go home with enough energy for my family.”

Ayen admitted that after acting in consecutive TV series, she realized she had a lot of catching up to do on the homefront. “I must admit nakita ko yung na-miss ko — not just with (my husband) but what I missed at home. I am hands-on with my kids, but I guess any family that has this kind of life will suffer. On my own, I realized, ‘Wait, I have to make bawi.’”

While Ayen feels fortunate that projects have been coming her way without her even asking for them, but “I need time for my children. I needed that. Kasi yung iba, pag matatapos na ang project, natataranta na. For me, yeah, I have to work, my husband has to work… lahat naman ganun sa industriya. Pero hindi puwede sa akin yung hindi mo na naiisip yung priorities mo. These days, hindi puwedeng hindi ko maging priority ang mga kids. Those are the things I have to think about.”

Her pride as a mother especially shone through when asked to talk about her kids. “I have a 22-year-old daughter (Mariella, who’s studying Comm Arts at La Salle), my son Kiko is 17 (in his senior year at Brent) going to college, and I have a 10-year-old kid named Angia na medyo confused kung dalaga na siya or baby pa siya (laughs).”

And her kids have obviously inherited the musical genes; they can sing, act and play instruments, and in fact, have gigs — occasionally. Her youngest, for example, recently performed with The CompanY. “But I don’t want to encourage showbiz at this time, although I don’t want to stop them either, but they know they have to finish school first.”

Meanwhile, the elections are coming up and with many showbiz personalities joining the fray, Ayen was asked whether Franco has entertained the thought of entering the political arena considering that he belongs to the Laurel political clan.

Ayen said that Franco has also been long courted by groups to seek an elective post. “Many times. The latest was two years ago, to run for vice mayor of Muntinlupa.” 

But she’s always been opposed to the idea. “Sabi ko, ‘What? No way!’ But I really thought he’d give it a go because parang nako-convince.”

She said, “But Franco knows that politics is really magulo. I don’t see him as a politician at all. It’s just not him.”












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