Barbara Perez recalls brief encounters with Cary Grant & Sandra Dee
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD - CITIZEN OF THE WORLD By Edu Jarque () - December 9, 2001 - 12:00am
Barbara Perez is indeed a revelation. An accomplished model adored by couturiers and a versatile actress desired by producers, the ageless Barbara is happiest being a doting grandmother these days.

"Don’t read me wrong," starts the gracious lady who does not believe in diets and has never exercised in her life but still has a girlish figure.

"I have had wonderful times modelling in several fashion shows here and abroad of which I have fond memories of, such as the Seattle World’s Fair where I was a member of the original Karilagan Group," she says.

"The movies and the stage," she continues, "have been my world and I am most grateful for they gave me the fulfillment of achievement and great joy. How can I forget the 59 performances in Manila and around the Philippines of Larawan where I played Candida, the foreign film festivals I have attended and the evening when I won the best actress statuette with my husband beside me clutching his own award for best actor for the film Sa Daigdig Ng Mga Api.

"Life has been good and there is so much to be thankful for," she declares with a smile that has won and continues to warm many hearts.

Married to veteran dramatic actor Robert Arevalo, mother of three – Anna, a director of commercials, Georgina, a full time hands-on mom, and Christian, a graduating student at Xavier School – and grandmother of two, Erica and Anton, Barbara is house proud. "I do household chores every day all the time and we take care of our grandchildren – no yayas if you please!" she explains. "You must try my callos – relatives and friends claim it’s better than in any Spanish restaurant in town."

"Oh yes, I go to the malls," she admits, "not to shop per se, but to check on what is new and what is available. You would be surprised with what one discovers – items that are extremely useful, articles you have not even dreamt of, things that could perhaps bring about a better and happier life."

For the practicality of day-to-day living, Barbara opts for Calvin Klein. However, for those important moments, she admires the simple classic lines of Hubert Givenchy.

Before she literally gets fully involved with all the do-it-ourselves preparations for the holiday season and in anticipation of yet another trip complete with regalos of ensaymadas she brings as pasalubongs, I dropped by the family home for a visit and this is part of our conversation.

Philippine STAR: What do you remember most of your first trip abroad?

Barbara Perez:
It was my first year in the movies and somehow I was dying to go to Disneyland. So when some members of the Vera Perez clan – they are like my second family – decided to visit Los Angeles, I tagged along. I was amazed by the size of the amusement park with its never-seem-to-end things to do. I could not believe one long day that extended well into midnight was not enough to really do Disneyland. I also remember our stop at the Movieland Wax Museum where I noticed the various clappers declaring that it took 12 takes or more to film some scenes portrayed and exhibited at the different cubicles. I said to myself the Philippine movie industry simply could not afford such luxury. Just think of all the costs involved for such an exercise.

What won’t you leave home without?

Dr. Jose Perez of my home studio Sampaguita Pictures and Vera Perez Productions constantly reminded us to always look like movie stars because people expect you to. Because of such training – consciously or unconciously – I can’t leave home without my makeup box, complete with my favorite perfume.

How do you pass time at airports?

I do my rounds of the airport shops and see what’s new or available. Once that’s done, I settle down in some quiet corner and read my pocketbook – usually a romantic love story.

Name your favorite city abroad.

It has to be San Francisco for it is the city I am most familiar with after several trips to visit my brother Binky and his family. I love the weather and enjoy the company of friends residing in the area. San Francisco relaxes me, unlike New York where life is too hectic.

What is the first thing you do upon checking in at a hotel?

At most times, this would be the scenario: I would literally drop my bags and immediately go and search for a drugstore. Chances are I would be having a severe migraine attack. You see, I never sleep on planes and I don’t carry medicines including migraine pills for the inconvenience of being examined by the customs authorities and having to explain everything. But come to think of it, I have never been stopped and questioned. Is it because I dress up, as in dress up like they used to, for all my flights?

What would you consider a must-do activity in every foreign city that you visit?

Take pictures of the sights and the activities we do. We then send them to members of the family with a sort of wish you were here note – all in good spirit.

Who would you wish to have "bumped into" – dead or alive – during your travels?

Jackie O – I admire her fashion sense and most of all her determination to raise her two children away from the public eye and in the best possible way she knew how. Diana, Princess of Wales – her entire life story, no matter whose version you read – continues to fascinate me. The likes of movie actors Richard Gere and Robert Redford – they are both just WOW!

What is your favorite spot in the Philippines?

Baguio. It is one of the few places in the country where I can unwind and feel totally rested. Imagine no migraine headaches at all whatsoever. It must be the adorable weather, the smell of pine trees, the feeling of clean air and all that magic that only Baguio possesses.

What do you miss most when you’re away from home?

My grandchildren – Erica and Anton. I miss them so very much. I am convinced it is a different kind of love one feels towards grandchildren. Strange as it may sound, I must say that I automatically find myself in the children’s department whenever I visit a store while I am on a holiday.

What is the best travel advice you were given?

Though one is on vacation, one must be vigilant at all times and move around with care. Most especially when it comes to travel documents and money. Some suggest a money bag wrapped around one’s waist. But I find it rather bulky and gives you a funny sensation like your tummy has expanded beyond belief.

Describe your most memorable trip.

In 1962, I had the great fortune to be in a Hollywood film produced by Universal International entitled No Man Is An Island. Filmed in Subic Bay, it had Jeffrey Hunter in the starring role. I was invited to go to Los Angeles for publicity shots to promote the movie. For starters, I stayed at the former house of Greta Garbo in Santa Monica. During my brief stay at the Universal lot, I saw and met several actors and actresses. At the makeup department one day, they introduced me to a girl they claim was Sandra Dee. I was so disappointed for she was not the Gidget I knew from films and movie magazines. Only after the wonder of makeup did she look the part. Another encounter was with the producer of movie greats and responsible for the invasion of Eurasian actresses such as Nancy Kwan and France Nguyen. His name was Ross Hunter. While having a meal at the commissary, someone asked if he could join me at my table. I recognized the voice but was not quite sure. I caught a glimpse of the gray trousers and slowly looking up who do I see? Cary Grant! He had a gray suit and a yellow shirt. I was tongue-tied and could not answer questions except with a yes or a no. He concluded by saying that he hoped I would sign up with the studio for a five-year contract. Instead I opted for a lifetime contract. But that is in itself another story.

What is the strangest thing you have done on a trip?

While in Manila, I usually have at least two showers a day. Sometimes three or more. However, whenever I am away, I only take one shower a day. I have my own personal reasons.

Looking back at your travels abroad, what would you say is your biggest regret?

Not being able to take it easy while on a trip due to the hectic schedule for various reasons. As far as I am concerned, vacation without relaxation is no holiday at all.

Let’s talk favorites. What’s your favorite meal and the drink you often order?

Any Asian dish and I would order a Coke.

Name a movie you would see over and over again.

The classic Gone With The Wind.

Name some books you would recommend others to read.

The Story of Mary, Queen of Scots.
I finished it in a day and night. The language used during the beheading is so beautiful, I cried. Another book would be The Green Darkness by Anya Seton. It’s a love story involving a Benedictine monk and a simple girl and her reincarnation.

What would I find on your working table?

My working table is in the kitchen where I gladly prepare meals for the family, relatives and friends to partake and enjoy.

What would I find on your night table?

My wooden rosary – if it’s made of wood, more indulgences are gained. My collection of novenas and my cell phone.

What would I find under your bed?

Absolutely nothing. Perhaps, come to think of it, probably my slippers.

Name three things you would try to save during a natural disaster – heaven forbid.

Believe it or not, I can leave everything. I am not attached to material things.

Name three things you would never do.

Though I am a pet lover, I would never allow them inside the house – much less sleep with me. I never go camping. I never go to Divisoria.

Let’s fill in the blanks. "When I am happy, I..."

Joke around and laugh a lot.

"When I am sad, I..."

Sit by myself and analyze a lot.

"If I had more time I would..."

Redecorate the entire house.

Name some words or statements you always use.

Dios mio
and I love you.

Aside from unpacking your suitcase, what is the first thing you do upon returning home?

Request for some Filipino food from our favorite restaurant.

Name a country you have never visited but would like to someday.

Spain. That’s where my maternal grandfather was from. He was born in Andalucia and it would be a dream come true to be able to trace my family roots.

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