Sharon Cuneta on P1 billion contract, love, politics, Richard, Robin, Gabby, Piolo & FPJ
Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there. — Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180), Roman Emperor
Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. — Hans Christian Andersen
Phenomenal multi-awarded actress, singer, TV host and the most-sought-after celebrity endorser in Philippine pop culture is Megastar Sharon Cuneta Pangilinan, who has enthralled and continued to entertain the public since she was age 12.
Now 46 years old, married to Senator Kiko Pangilinan and mother of four children, Sharon has recently signed up with Manny V. Pangilinan’s TV5 with an unprecedented and record-breaking P1 billion contract. She’s the No. 1 taxpayer among female showbiz stars according to the BIR. She is launching a new daily TV show on March 19 entitled Sharon, Kasama Mo Kapatid, showing afternoons from Mondays to Fridays, and she’s now going into realty development with new townhouses in Quezon City’s lively Scout area.
This writer was in a business meeting at a restaurant when Sharon, her daughter KC Concepcion, their manager Vic del Rosario of Viva Entertainment, Sandra Chavez and other friends entered for midnight snacks. Thanks to the Megastar for agreeing to an unscheduled and no-holds-barred two-hour interview.
PHILIPPINER STAR: The P1 billion pesos contract offer by Manny Pangilinan pirating you from ABS-CBN 2 to TV5 is staggering, the biggest in Philippine television history. Is that the main reason you left?
SHARON CUNETA-PANGILINAN: One billion pesos is indeed a big amount and I’m grateful, but that wasn’t the main thing. Maybe it was really time for a change… In spite of the love of my bosses at ABS-CBN, maybe I was craving for the attention and the care that they used to give me.
What about loyalty to your old station?
I’ve stayed with ABS for 23 years, so people cannot question my loyalty to them.
VIC DEL ROSARIO: Sharon is the No. 1 most loyal to ABS-CBN 2, No. 2 most loyal is KC.
So you were no longer happy with ABS-CBN?
I still love them and they love me, pero ang dami-dami na nila doon (but they are so many there already)… I will not leave without a reason. Also, it’s true that I felt it was time for a change. Also, they don’t know how to maximize my strengths as an entertainer, not to say that ABS-CBN doesn’t give me support, but I have to admit, I felt a bit taken for granted.
You also seem to be a very loyal friend, what you did to help Sarah Geronimo when she had a rift with her ex-boyfriend Rayver Cruz’s new girlfriend Christine Reyes.
I would have done that for anyone. Ang masama niyan, binaliktad pa ang istorya at hanggang ngayon wala pang apology sa akin (What’s worse, the story was distorted or turned around and no apologies yet to me).
So you’re a very close friend of Sarah?
Not as close as I am to Judy Ann Santos, it was through Judy Ann Santos that I became a friend of Sarah.
Years ago at a Hong Kong bookshop, I saw a big carton box of books with your name on it, books you had bought and for shipment to your home. You love books?
Ah, books, the truth is, this has actually been an issue between me and Kiko (laughs). In our bedroom, on my side, there are four rows of books.
Can you estimate how many books you own?
Many thousands! How many floors is the Fully Booked building in The Fort? Five storeys yata (maybe)? If you fix that building to be full of books and without open spaces in each floor, that’s like the number of all my books. I have to store my books in different places. I love books.
Do you also use Kindle for reading books?
My Kindles are always four, like tonight, look at this [gets her Kindle to show the many different book titles she has ordered]. Ang sabi nga ni Kiko sa akin: “Pati sa Kindle, nag-ho-hoard ka. (Kiko had told me: Even in Kindle you’re hoarding)!” In my Kindle, I also have my SAT reviewers from Barron’s, Kaplan and others, because I didn’t have the chance to go to college, so I’m reading even several SAT reviewers on various subjects.
Reading books is your passion?
I have two wishes. First, I wish I could fly, that’s been my wish ever since I was a little kid. My second wish is to be able to speed read, absorb and comprehend at least 20 books at the same time… no, make that 50 books, 100 books (laughs). Actually I have a third wish, it’s to have two more lifetimes sana, kulang kasi ang oras. Kung okay itong mga wishes ko, solve ka na, one can already run the world!
What are your favorite books?
One of my favorite books, next only to the Bible, of course, is The Emperor’s Handbook by Marcus Aurelius. He was a straight guy, a very enlightened leader, the emperor of the Roman empire. Have you read this book?
Not yet. I saw CNN host Fareed Zakaria’s interview with China Premier Wen Jiabao that Wen had read the Meditations book by Marcus Aurelius 100 times. Is that the same book?
Wow, 100 times? I have read that book three times. It is a very good guide to life, by the good emperor of Rome. I will give you an extra copy I ordered, ikaw din (you also) Boss Vic, I’ll send you an extra copy. You have to read this excellent book. By the way, there’s also an interesting book, which I’m sure you’ve read and which I like, it’s called Lords of the Rim…
Lords of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien? The book made into a movie?
No, it’s Lords of the Rim by Sterling Seagrave, about overseas Chinese taipans all over Asia, it’s fascinating. Sabin Aboitiz told me to read this book.
If you’ve studied the book by the great leader Marcus Aurelius, you’re super smart, and with your political background from your late dad Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta, next for you is to run for public office?
Hindi ako puwede sa politics (I’m cannot be in politics), the Filipino people may love me, but they won’t obey me. I am too frank for politics, also I have many non-conventional ideas and questions. Look at just the age-old war in Mindanao, I’ve asked my husband Kiko about the problems there. I’m frustrated with the crisis there. Do you know how naturally rich the region of Mindanao is? There’s so much economic potential there. The Visayas region is all right, but I’m very concerned about Mindanao’s socio-economic and other problems. I asked Kiko, how can there be real economic development if there are endless wars and conflicts? How can kids grow up to have a good future if their families keep on evacuating? How can we ordinary persons with good intentions help to solve the complex problems there, with their holding guns?
Maybe you can be the next Vilma Santos?
Ate Vi, she is really a very good example of a successful political leader. Her accomplishments help give a better image to us artistas (entertainers).
Why not run in Pasay, your late dad’s bailiwick?
You know, I visited Pasay in November 2012 to look at my mom’s building. First, I passed by the City Hall (laughs), it was colorful, it had Mayor Peewee’s colors… Pasay, a lot of it was malinis naman (somehow clean)…They can fix more things in that city, if they want to really fix it…
You don’t see a future for yourself in politics, maybe in the future?
Hanggang mamatay ako (Up to the day that I die), I can never ever… Kahit isang piso, hindi ko kayang nakawin (Even one peso, I could not steal). You know, tanga lang ako sa love, kaya magaling ako sa lahat (I’m only a fool in love, so I have excelled in all other things) and I try to over-achieve.
I think I’m not meant for politics, it is often so cynical, there’s corruption… I don’t know what my late father did, but my father had his business and as a child I remember going to my dad’s various real estate businesses, Ate Vi in Batangas she has a good teacher in her husband in handling politics, but I just personally don’t have the stomach for politics. Maybe in the United States puwede pa (probably it’s possible there) [laughs]. Politics I leave to my husband Kiko, because I don’t like the dishonesty, the betrayals in politics…
If not Pasay, maybe run for senator since you’re smarter than many of our politicos?
Kung senador, kailangan kasing talino na ako ni Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (If senator, I need to be as smart as Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago)… Oh my god, I really wish I’m as quick-witted and an intellectual as she is, and I need to read and study as much as she does so that maybe I can become even just one percent of her intelligence!
Perhaps mayor or governor of a province?
If ever I had married my ex before, I could have run for a local position in the province like Negros, but it wouldn’t be for any personal reasons, it would be to serve the local community.
Your ex-boyfriend Mark Cojuangco?
Not, not my kuya Mark, si Charlie…
VIC DEL ROSARIO: Why not run for mayor of Santa Rosa in Laguna, where you have a home?
Hay, huwag doon, may patayan yata sa pulitika diyan? Sa Visayas na lang ako (Hay, not there, I heard there were killings in the politics there? I prefer the Visayas)! Politics, it’s funny everybody wants me to run, except me!
You say you cannot stomach topsy-turvy politics, but isn’t it just like showbiz?
There’s a difference. In politics, it’s ungrateful, dirty and you even get death threats, but in showbiz, it’s only ungrateful but there’s no patayan (no killings). Showbiz is not half as dirty as politics, we don’t kill each other. And in my work in showbiz, I believe I can also affect the lives of many people, especially through television. In showbiz, even starlets have some influence, not just the politicos. We can also make a positive difference.
If not a politician, maybe as First Lady to your husband Kiko, if he someday runs for President?
Good luck to her! (laughs)
To her? Who?
Ay, iyan ang sagot ko (Ay, that’s my answer), that’s my joke, whenever people ask about Kiko running for President, good luck sa First Lady niya (good luck to his First Lady)! (laughs) Seriously, on political plans for the future, Kiko has said and I support him: “We go where God takes us.” I’m not saying BS to you, that’s really how we feel about the political future. Kiko just sincerely wants to do a good job in public service and I wholeheartedly support him.
Is Kiko running for senator again next year, or for another position?
No, it’s his last term as senator. He’s not running.
What will he do next?
Kiko is now very busy farming (smiles).
Where? Planting what?
Just outside of Tagaytay, it’s very small, about one hectare of land. He’s planting a little coffee, some coconuts and others. He has fallen in love with agriculture, maybe because he’s chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Kiko keeps telling me, if only the Philippines can develop well our farming and fishing potentials, the Philippine economy could be a lot richer and there would be a lot less poverty nationwide.
Kiko is with the Liberal Party, has he patched up already with Korina Sanchez, wife of Liberal chairman Mar Roxas?
Matagal na (Since a long time ago).
Any other government post you’re open to consider, someday?
Maybe as ambassador to a foreign country, hopefully France or Thailand, because I’m tactful, diligent, I like to host… I want to help improve the international image of the Philippines.
How does a workaholic like you spend your leisure time, if any?
Reading, watching DVDs. You know what a big night for me is? Watching a movie, dinner, desserts and coffee, that’s what I love to do ever since high school. It’s only my daughter KC here who has to drag me out of my home…
What last good movie you really enjoyed?
I really like Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Muprhy and other famous stars. Tawa ako nang tawa (I kept laughing and laughing)! You know about the huge finance Ponzi scam by Bernie Madoff in the US? I had read a lot about it, even the book by his daughter-in-law, the wife of Madoff’s son who committed suicide. This movie has a Madoff-like character staying at the penthouse of the residential building. He was initially loved by all his employees and residents of the building, and this person played by Ben Stiller had advised the them to invest their money with their boss up there, and the comedy film is about how they got back at the crooked financier. I liked this film, I loved it, you have to watch it!
VIC DEL ROSARIO: Did you watch the movie The Vow?
Wala, kasi nasa Cebu ako (no, because I was in Cebu).
What movies do you like the most, drama or romance flicks?
I like boy movies (laughs). If you let me choose between action movies and love stories, I’d choose action. I grew up watching Bruce Lee. I’m still in love with Sylvester Stallone, in fact, I recently tweeted him that I’ll marry him even if he’s already 90 years old! (laughs) I watched all his Rocky and other action films, and I made my kids watch his movies too. I’ve watched his films since I was 11 years old.
Speaking of love, how many boyfriends have you had, excluding Kiko?
Yes, only the serious ones.
Well, there’s Gabby (Concepcion), plus three or four others and one non-showbiz.
Can you name them?
Gabby, Richard (Gomez) is one, Robin (Padilla) is one, then secret the other one….
The other one is Charlie Cojuangco, the son of Danding?
What have you learned about love?
It’s fickle… Not on my part ha! No, take that back, sometimes on my part also….
What is your advice to people about love?
Take it easy. If you’re lucky, you can find your natural soulmate. But sometimes, you think you’ve already found your ideal partner, then years down the road you’d meet someone who you think is your real soulmate. Nowadays, my advice is: there’s no need to get married before you’re 30 years old. There’s no need to rush.
Is that your advice also to your daughter KC about love?
(KC claps in response, says something to Sharon, then laughs.)
(Looking at KC) I’m rushing a grandson, not a husband! And stop those sexy magazine poses like the ones you did for Rogue magazine, it’s… you’re stealing my poses! (laughs)
How old are you now, KC?
KC CONCEPCION: Twenty-something (laughs).
Para ka namang tange (You’re like a fool), everybody knows when you were born. I had her when I was four and a half years old! (laughs)
Any love life tips for KC?
She knows. I’m very supportive of her, whether in her career or in love. You can’t control other people’s feelings. I just give advice. I just want her to really be happy. As a mother, I want all my kids to love me and that they be happy.
Your comments on the biggest love life controversy last year involving Piolo Pascual, KC’s ex-boyfriend?
On Piolo, I really have nothing to say about him… except, that we loved and treated him very well. I loved and welcomed him sincerely, but he never even once showed himself officially to our family from the day that he and KC first went out up to now….
So you’re very disappointed with Piolo?
I really loved him. We sincerely cared for him. I wouldn’t be hurt if I didn’t care for a person. I really cared for him, because my daughter KC really loved him.
Who or what kind of guy is the ideal boyfriend for KC?
Sorry, she’s already taken!
When? By whom?
By Prince William! (laughs)
How does it feel that BIR records show you’re No. 1 female taxpayer among our stars?
I don’t know if that’s such a good thing for me. Yes, it does speak well of my honesty, or maybe I need to change my accountant! (laughs). Look at the BIR list of top taxpayers, you don’t see a Gokongwei or the Zobels or even Boss Vic of Viva as No. 1 on any list. I came out of the list as No. 1, and that’s last year pa ha, with not that much work pa…. Do you think I really should change my accountant? (laughs)
If you’re not in showbiz, what would be the ideal profession for Sharon Cuneta?
A hotelier! Do you know where my dream school is, where I would have wanted to study if I just had the time, not only for any short course but to really study? Le Roches, the best hotel school in the world. I’ve always wanted to go into the hotel and resort business, that’s due to my travels ever since I was 10 years old.
I heard you bought a lot by the ocean in Bohol for a resort project?
It’s two hectares with an oceanfront, but no beach. I heard there are already too many hotels in Bohol, so I’m planning a different retirement village for the many Boholanos living abroad. A lot of retirement places in the Philippines are developed for foreign retirees, mine hopes to cater to local people and the balikbayans (overseas Filipinos who are returnees).
I heard you also bought a lot in Palawan for a resort, in the San Vicente area?
It’s in Binga, near San Vicente. It’s eight hectares, beautiful white-sand beach. The problem is I’m still waiting for the airport there. I kept asking, and the pilots of Manny Pamgilinan told me the landing strip is already finished, but there’s still no runway. I asked how much would it cost to build or finish a runway, maybe I could just pitch in to help. My friends said it would cost P900 million pesos, so I said: “Huh? P900 million? Never mind!” (laughs)
I suggest you ask Palawan Governor Baham Mitra, he’s committed to boost tourism there.
Can you help me ask him about the airport plans in that area?
You’re also developing townhouses in the Scout area of Quezon City?
Yes, they’re really very beautiful and unique, these townhouse units I’m now constructing, located in a nice area near Morato Avenue. Remember, I told you in the 1990s that I want to go into realty development? I’m going into it now.
Going back to love, I forgot to ask, any love advice for the bachelor P-Noy?
Naku! I’m afraid of getting into people’s businesses, especially their love lives. I don’t stick into other people’s businesses. My God, he’s the president of the Philippines, he can decide.
On the topic of love again, who among your ex-boyfriends are you closest to?
Richard Gomez and Robin Padilla.
Who did you almost marry?
(Thinks for a few seconds) Lahat naman sila (All of them), including Charlie.
Yes, Charlie and I were engaged.
For how long were you engaged?
Secret na. I’m not close to Charlie. It wasn’t a good break-up, but I’m close to his sisters Tina and Lisa, and I love his parents to death.
So you’re closest to Richard and Robin?
With no strings attached, the guys who were really the most gentlemen and to whom I’m close to, yes, Richard and Robin. We could have gotten married….
We broke up….
I thought Gabby Concepcion was the greatest love of your life? He was your first love.
The first is not necessarily the best and the most loved… That’s why he’s only the first and not the last.
Going back to the idea of First Lady, just even hypothetically if you had the chance to be such, who’d be your role models?
If I were a First Lady, I’d be a combination of Jackie O (Kennedy Onassis) and Barbara Bush! But I also like Eleanor Roosevelt… Hillary Clinton, I adore her, but I don’t want to be like her, and I’m also not a lawyer like she is.
Why Jackie and Barbara Bush?
It’s a funny combination, isn’t it? I’d like to have some style and glamour at home like Jackie, also some propriety like Barbara Bush. I want to improve the style, prestige and image of the Philippines like the way Jackie did for the US Like Bush, I will be proper and quietly supportive of my husband. I will not give my opinion, which, by the way, is highly regarded by my husband Kiko, if it is not sought. I’d like to be like the dignified and proper Barbara Bush, a supportive and dependable wife. As First Lady, I’d just entertain, read and fall asleep!
So a celebrity like you really prefers a quiet life?
You know since the age of 12, I had no idea then what I was going to give up in terms of privacy and a normal life. At 12 years old, I thought then that it would just be two movies and then back to school, so I really treasure every private moment that I can enjoy. Even when I was in high school, I only had a few friends. Even now, I have only very few but high-quality friends, and I feel I’m truly blessed.
I heard you always had high grades in your University of the Philippines (UP) open university program?
My lowest grade was in the line of 2 (the highest grades in the UP system is 1). My favorite subject was Philo 173.
Are you still studying?
I stopped for a while, so I can enjoy my P1 billion (laughs), joke only! I stopped in order to enjoy my being a mother to my young kids.
How will you invest your P1 billion pesos? How do you invest your money?
First of all, 10 percent of my earnings I tithe or donate to my church, to the World Community Church, and others… Anything in His service. That’s SOP for me. Next you pay yourself first, and then I save a lot. I can’t spend it all, what will I buy?
If your husband will not run for president in 2016, who then will you support?
Who’s running ba?
For sure Vice-President Jojo Binay is running. I heard Secretary Mar Roxas wants to run, maybe Erap’s son Senator Jinggoy or Lakas party’s Senator Bong Revilla, maybe a dark horse is Senator Bongbong Marcos… Who are you inclined to support?
This time, I will support the person who is in my heart. In the election before, my husband Kiko was with the administration, but the late Fernando Poe, Jr. was the person in my heart whom I really wanted to support. We were very close, he was a very good friend. I’m only thankful that I had talked to him during the election campaign. He was in the car when he called me, and his assistant Susan Tagle was there as witness. He used to call me by the nickname “Klatput.”
He said to me after I explained my need to support my husband’s political position, his exact words to me were: “Klatput, this is only politics, after this we’ll still be good friends.” The ending was “I love you.” I was pregnant then. Later on, I gave birth to Miel in September, and then he died in December.
So you admired the late FPJ, and it hurt you that you couldn’t support him then?
Mahal ko siya (I love him). We were really close. Sometimes he would even come to my house at 4 a.m. just to chat. Once I was taping at ABS-CBN, tumawag si FPJ at papasundo pa niya ako (FPJ called and he had me fetched), I thought it was something important, gusto lang pala niya ipagmalaki sa owner ng sari-sari store sa tabi ng kalsada na kaya niyang papuntahin si Sharon Cuneta (it turned out, he just wanted to prove to a streetside knick-knack store owner that he could have Sharon Cuneta go there).
We were so close. FPJ was even the godfather of my daughter KC. In fact, ka tong-its niya si KC (he used to play the card game tong-its with KC) and he would then say: “Tinatalo na niya ninong niya! (“She’s already beating her godfather!)” KC was only nine years old then… And Wilson, you know what really breaks my heart is I don’t get to talk to Tita Susan (Roces) anymore.
You can do it the way the Democrat Maria Shriver and her ex-husband the Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger did before, vote independently of each other?
Yes, that’s a good example. I remember a TV interview of Schwarzenegger asking about their different politics before, and he answered that yes he’s a Republican and his wife’s a Democrat, and he jokingly added: “Well, you know, nobody’s perfect.” [laughs]
When you say politics divides people, were you referring also to your uncle Senator Tito Sotto’s past rift with your husband Kiko?
Yes, politics does divide families, like when my uncle says something bad about Kiko, you don’t understand why….
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