As I recall: The Sharon Cuneta on my mind

by Bobby T. Yalong

Megastar Sharon CunetaThe final quarter of the 70’s ushered in a fresh talent via he airwaves, boob-tube and the silver screen who would instantly capture the hearts of listeners and viewers and incredibly create such massive impact that earned for her unprecedented waves and raves and a huge moniker which catapulted her to such level of popularity with a tag distinctly her own — the Megastar!

Sharon Cuneta, second born of the late Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta and beauteous former airline stewardess Elaine Gamboa Cuneta, was merely a bubbly freshman from St. Paul College (I could easily tell with her black and white checkered uniform) when she was referred to me by her singer-actress aunt Helen Gamboa (who was then a regular client of my Espana atelier) for their early evening TV show, C.U.T.E. (Call Us Two for Entertainment).

I could vividly recall my initial encounter with the young recording-TV talent who’d someday be a Megastar. Having in mind the picture of a young girl all of thirteen years old, I was expecting somebody whose built and size would be in that category.  To my amazement, the PYT (Pretty Young Thing) that greeted me was quite tall for her age with a body structure that already showed signs of adolescent formation. The generous volume of bangs that almost covered her eyebrows prominently established her facial character and easily complimented her smiling eyes and luscious lips.

Young Sharon’s upbringing in a political atmosphere coupled with adequate public orientation was noticeable with the way she interacted with people despite her youth. She delightfully displayed such peculiar warmth with an air of sincerity even in an initial encounter that left an indelible mark of cordiality and lingering impression. “Muy simpatica! Muy educada!” the elders would vehemently comment.

Every Wednesday afternoon after her classes, she would regularly grace my shop to fit and pick-up her outfit for the show and hurriedly hushed for her make-up appointment with Ricky Reyes. Sharon became a permanent mid-week fixture in my place and so were her growing league of fans who would excitedly gather outside and in front of my display window (even much earlier than Sharon’s normal schedule of arrival) just to be sure to have a preferred spot for a more vantage view.

The young star never failed to acknowledge the simple gestures accorded her by supporters… sweet (plastered) smiles, hand waves and shakes, autograph signing, picture taking and all the sorts.  Sharon was already prepared for the big time. But my shop helper would constantly complain about marked window glasses, plants and pocket landscape being crushed and in disarray every after Sharon’s visit.

A few months later, Sharon joined German Moreno’s “Germspecial,” a Sunday variety show in Channel 7, as co-host (alternating with Jackie Lou Blanco) which left me dressing her up twice a week. I wasn’t at all complaining but I still had other celebrities then to attend to: Lani Mercado (“Ladies & gentlemen” with Joey de Leon and her movies), Ruffa Guttierez (who came home from the USA and started appearing on TV and movies), Lala Aunor (for her “Lala Aunor Show”) plus other young aspirants cast in “That’s Entertainment.”

Little Anecdotes

In my partnership with Sharon during the early phase of her career, there were some cute anecdotes that literally put a smile on my lips every time they fondly flow back in reminiscence.

It was quite amazing to discover that Sharon’s appetite to sodium chloride was into a very high intensity that she would still put additional salt to the already salty “bagoong” (salted shrimp paste) each time she ate manggang manibalang (green mango). While waiting for her dress or gown, (if ever she came early), she would request Yaya Luring (her nanny) to watch for a street mango peddler and like a long-starved kid of her favorite chips, Sharon would feast on it voraciously… munching every fully “bagoong”-dipped slice with so much gusto.

The same thing with fishballs: a bowl (which contained about 20 to 25 pieces that cost five centavos each during that time) seemed not to suffice to feed her craving for the popular Filipino street food. She would love to have its sauce even a bit spicy and one could see how contented she was after. “Very down-to-earth!” you would unmistakably say!

Then there was an instance when I got frantic one very early morning. Sharon’s personal bodyguard, a motored cop, came knocking hardly informing me that his young ward was in the shop. I dressed-up in haste for my unscheduled guest only to find out that she was sleeping on the leather coach in her pajamas while Yaya Luring continuously cooled her with a fan. The air-conditioning unit wasn’t turned on yet. The reason: there was a simple case of misunderstanding between her and her mom and Sharon run away from home to find solace and comfort in my shop. Very childish and ordinarily normal of her age. With a phone call and cool intervention, the little “tampuhan” was instantly patched up and the sobbing princess went home as the sun started to shine.

There will always be tensions when you’re in the fashion business, or any business for that matter. Aside from the ones I have with my customers and sewers, I also experienced my own share with Sharon. Mina Aragon (SLN), then lady boss of Viva Films, called me if Sharon’s pictorial costume for “High School” (her second album) was ready which came as a shock for nobody informed me. And who would breeze in but Sharon who failed to tell me about it. Without a second thought, I rushed to Sampaloc market for the materials (white and blue tetoron) and the whole workforce was suddenly down to work… and, instantly, the costume in question was done! There is always a mystic smile each time I see the album cover of “High School”… if they only knew the story behind…

Fast-forward: The Megastar now

The fleeting time has pushed a lot of events and happenings away so fast that we could barely catch up. After so many years, changes occurred and where is Sharon Cuneta now? Married to Sen. Kiko Pangilinan (after a failed first marriage to Gabby Concepcion), with kids (KC Concepcion, Frankie and Miel Pangilinan), still lording it over the tin-pan-alley, TV and the wide screen… maybe, a bit heavier (sign of contentment), but her peculiar sincerity and innate friendly ways remain intact and unaffected by any change… and, most of all, still regally seated on her throne as the reigning one and only MEGASTAR of the Philippine showbiz firmament.

Watch and meet Sharon Cuneta in person and get the feel of the same experience I have had with her. Watch her perform with her daughter, KC Concepcion on Sunday, at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2009 at the NJPAC Prudential Hall in Newark, New Jersey for the MEGATHIRTY Concert.

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